- Researchers may have discovered the world's smallest dinosaur, which shares some resemblance with birds.
- The dinosaur, named Oculudentavis khaungraae, had large eyes and teeth in its bill and might provide deeper insights for the scientific community about evolution and species miniaturization.
It would appear that researchers have found the world’s smallest known dinosaur in a 99-million-year-old piece of amber recovered from Myanmar’s Cretaceous period. The bird-like skull of Oculudentavis khaungraae, a new species pictured above, prominently displays the creature’s beak.
The specimen, which was similar in size to a bee hummingbird—currently the world’s smallest bird weighing in around two grams—had big, bulging eyes and may help researchers understand the process in which tiny birds evolved from larger dinosaurs.
Oculudentavis is a portmanteau meaning “eye tooth bird,” a fitting name chosen by the researcher due, in part, to O. khaungraae’s “unusual” skull features.
One of those features are the “enormous eye sockets” which contain scleral ossicles—overlapping rings of membrane bones. The team studying the O. khaungraae specimen theorize that since the opening in the middle of these structures is narrow and limits the amount of light that can enter the eye, it seems to provide “strong evidence that Oculudentavis was active in well-lit, daytime environments.”
The other interesting portion of the minuscule dino’s head is its bill full of teeth. Although we don’t see birds with teeth—even though O. khaungraae was not a bird—it’s not uncommon to see teeth in fossils of prehistoric birds. For example, Protodontopteryx ruthae, a pelagornithid that flew across New Zealand skies 62 million years ago, had bony teeth-like structures that lined its beak. In O. khaungraae, however, researchers found that the amount of teeth within the creature’s bill was larger than other birds who lived within the same timespan.
According to a paper published in Nature, the researchers share that this surplus of teeth “as well as their sharp and carinated morphology—suggests that [the dinosaur] was a predator, probably feeding on small arthropods and other invertebrates.” Miraculously, some of O. khaungraae’s tongue has also been preserved in the amber which could help the researchers find out more about the this little dinosaur.
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