A tiny dinosaur skull was found in a 100 million-year-old amber. Named Oculudentavis khaungraae, the species may have given rise to the birds we know today
A tiny head, just 7 millimeters long (not including the beak), was found fossilized in a 100 million-year-old amber in Myanmar, and belongs to one of the smallest dinosaurs that ever existed on Earth. The creature would be one of the species that gave rise to modern birds.
The discovery, published in Nature, was described by paleontologists at the University of Geosciences of China and institutions in the United States and Canada. The animal was probably the size of a bee hummingbird, the smallest bird alive today. The fossil was named Oculudentavis khaungraae, or “eye-tooth bird”.
The skull has large eye sockets on the sides of the head, just like modern lizards, and its eyes have narrow openings that limit the entry of light. This is a strong indication that the animal was diurnal, according to the co-author of the investigation, Lars Schmitz.
Oculudentavis’ upper and lower jaws are full of sharp teeth, meaning it was a predator of insects and other small invertebrates. According to Science magazine, scientists believe that the tiny size of the species is an example of “island dwarfism”, an evolutionary process in which large animals that live on islands decrease in size.
Without knowing the rest of the animal’s body, scientists cannot say whether it was like other “bird” dinosaurs – or even if it could fly. But the main hypothesis, according to Science, is that it is a species of primitive birds that lived between 150 million and 120 million years ago.