The Tiniest Dinosaur In The World Has Been Discovered
The team of scientists have discovered a tiny new species of dinosaur, believed to be the smallest on record.
Named Oculudentavis khaungraae, the diminutive bird’s skull measures only 14.25 milimetres — less than the width of a thumbnail and smaller than the minuscule bee hummingbird. The team’s findings were published Wednesday in Nature.
“It’s lucky this tiny creature was preserved in amber, as such small, fragile animals aren’t common in the fossil record,” said the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s senior vice president of research and collections, Dr. Luis Chiappe. Oculudentavis’ skull was trapped in Burmese amber 99 million years ago. “This finding is exciting because it gives us a picture of the small animals that lived in a tropical forest during the Age of Dinosaurs.”
Oculudentavis’ size isn’t the only thing curious about it. Typically when animals evolve to become smaller, their eyes become proportionally large and they lose teeth. However, this pint-sized predator has more teeth than any other fossil bird, running all the way up to below its eye.
Further, the bones supporting Oculudentavis’ eyes are spoon-shaped like some lizards, rather than square like a bird’s. The diurnal dinosaur’s sharp, owl-like eyes faced sideways rather than forward and bulged out, making it unlike any other animal alive today. In fact, Oculudentavis’ eyes are so strange that scientists are struggling to understand exactly how they would have worked.
“It’s the weirdest fossil I’ve ever been lucky enough to study,” said Dr. Jingmai O’Connor, senior professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead author on the study. “I just love how natural selection ends up producing such bizarre forms.”