The smallest dinosaur ever discovered has been found fossilised in a piece of amber.
Scientists were amazed after finding the well-preserved skull of a bird-like dinosaur in a 99-million-year-old piece of amber in northern Myanmar.
The tiny creature, named Oculudentavis khaungraae — which means ‘eye-tooth-bird’ — is smaller than a bee hummingbird which, until now, has been considered the smallest bird in the world.
Oculudentavis’ skull measures 14.25 millimetres long, and researchers have estimated the tiny dinosaur weighed about 28 grams and was just five centimetres long, including a hypothetical tail.
Soft tissue from its tongue has also been discovered, giving hope further scientific testing can be done.
Paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, said she was “totally blown away” when she first saw the fossil.
“It’s probably the most beautifully preserved Mesozoic bird skull I’ve ever seen, and it’s so weird,” said O’Connor, who also led the research published in the journal Nature.
The Mesozoic Era was the age of the dinosaurs.
Birds evolved from dinosaurs about 150 million years ago, but scientists are still trying to work out how Oculudentavis is related.
Its eyes resembled those of owls, with the eye bones forming a cone, indicating acute vision, O’Connor said.
Unlike birds of prey with forward-facing eyes and binocular vision enabling good depth perception, the eyes in Oculudentavis faced to the sides and bulged out of its head.
The small size of the aperture of the eye bones indicates Oculudentavis was active during the daytime.
Oculudentavis also has the most teeth seen in a Mesozic bird, having about 100 tiny teeth that are conical in shape with sharp ridges. It is believed they hunted insects.
“The size diversity hints at the amazing biology of dinosaurs, capable of sustaining such a diversity of forms,” said O’Connor.