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Smallest Dinosaur Ever Discovered 99 Million Years After Being Preserved In Amber

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 12 Mar 2020 09:35
Smallest Dinosaur Ever Discovered 99 Million Years After Being Preserved In AmberLida Xing

Scientists have discovered what’s believed to be the smallest-ever dinosaur trapped inside amber.

The amazing discovery was described by one of the team members as the ‘weirdest fossil’ she’s ever worked on.

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The dinosaur, which is described as hummingbird-sized and is thought to be around 99 million years old, was discovered in northern Myanmar last year.

Smallest Dinosaur Ever Discovered 99 Million Years After Being Preserved In AmberLida Xing

The discovery has only just come to light after the findings were published online yesterday, March 11, in the journal Nature.

The team, consisting of seven people, named their discovery Oculudentavis khaungraae.

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The paper described the fossil as providing ‘unprecedented insights’:

Skeletal inclusions in approximately 99-million-year-old amber from northern Myanmar provide unprecedented insights into the soft tissue and skeletal anatomy of minute fauna, which are not typically preserved in other depositional environments.

Among a diversity of vertebrates, seven specimens that preserve the skeletal remains of enantiornithine birds have previously been described, all of which (including at least one seemingly mature specimen) are smaller than specimens recovered from lithic materials.

The unique dinosaurs are believed to have had a large number of teeth, more so than the present-day hummingbird has.

Smallest Dinosaur Ever Discovered 99 Million Years After Being Preserved In AmberLida Xing
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While having largely bird-like features, the strange fossil was found have lizard-like, spoon-shaped eyes.

Typically birds have a ring of bones behind the eye, so scientists were shocked to find Oculudentavis khaungraae‘s eyes were spoon-shaped.

Writing in the scientific journal Nature, Professor Jingmai O’Connor, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, talked of the problems the small dinosaur would have faced due its size.

O’Connor said, via BBC News:

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Animals that become very small have to deal with specific problems, like how to fit all sensory organs into a very small head, or how to maintain body heat.

It’s the weirdest fossil I’ve ever been lucky enough to study.  I just love how natural selection ends up producing such bizarre forms. We are also super lucky this fossil survived to be discovered 99 million years later.

Smallest Dinosaur Ever Discovered 99 Million Years After Being Preserved In AmberLida Xing

Dr Luis Chiappe, co-author of the paper, expressed his excitement of the team’s discovery:

It’s lucky this tiny creature was preserved in amber, as such small, fragile animals aren’t common in the fossil record.

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.

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I mean, if I was personally going to become a fossil, I’d definitely like to be fossilised in amber. Maybe that will become a thing in the future?

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: News, Discovery, fossils, Myanmar, Science

Credits

Nature.com and 1 other
  1. Nature.com

    Hummingbird-sized dinosaur from the Cretaceous period of Myanmar

  2. BBC

    Smallest dinosaur found 'trapped in amber'