Oculudentavis khaungraae has bones similar to that of living lizards.
The skull of a tiny dinosaur that became encased in amber more than 99 million years ago was discovered in Myanmar, and is said to be the smallest dinosaur discovered to date.
The head of Oculudentavis khaungraae, preserved in amber.
The new species, Oculudentavis khaungraae, or eye-tooth bird, has more teeth than any fossil bird in existence. The researchers believe Oculudentavis khaungraae is a predator.
The researchers conducted analyses on the fossil and place the tiny dinosaur between Archaeopteryx, the oldest and most primitive bird (155-150 million years old) and Jeholornis, a specimen from 120 million years ago.
The eyes of Oculudentavis khaungraae are peculiar in that they differ from that of birds, which have a ring of bones called scleral rings, that support the eye. The individual bones of most birds, called scleral ossicles, are square. In Oculudentavis khaungraae, the bones are spoon shaped, a shape that is only found in some living lizards, according to the researchers. The complete paper can be read on the Nature.com website.
“It's really the coolest specimen that I've ever had the honor and been lucky enough to study," Dr. Jingmai O’Connor, Senior Professor, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Research Associate at NHM and a lead author on the study said in a press release put out by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. “This is not something you find every day.”