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Current Affairs

Hummingbird sized dinosaur fossil found in Myanmar

Date: 12 March 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

A new species of bird-like dinosaur identified from a skull trapped in amber is described in a paper. The new species may represent the smallest Mesozoic dinosaur reported to date.

 

Background

Of modern birds, the only dinosaurs still living today, the bee hummingbird is the smallest. Studies revealed that the Mesozoic bird had little else in common with today’s nectar-sipping hummingbirds. 

 

Details

  • Discoveries in amber are providing unprecedented insights into the soft tissue and skeletal anatomy of small animals that are not typically preserved in other sediments owing to their fragile nature. 

  • The tiny, bird-like skull was discovered in approximately 99-million-year-old amber from northern Myanmar, which is named Oculudentavis khaungraae.

  • The skull of the well-preserved specimen is only 7.1 mm in length and indicates the dinosaur was similar in size to the bee hummingbird, the smallest living bird.

  • Its skull is dominated by a large eye socket that is similar to a lizard’s eye. The eye socket has a narrow opening and only lets in a small amount of light, indicating Oculudentavis was suited to being active in daylight conditions.

  • Its upper and lower jaws contain a large number of sharp teeth and the authors estimate each jaw would have had 29 - 30 teeth in total.

  • Despite its small size, this finding suggests Oculudentavis was a predator and probably fed on small arthropods or invertebrates, unlike similar sized modern birds, which have no teeth and feed on nectar.

  • The creature may have been the product of evolutionary miniaturization, whereby animals evolve smaller adult body sizes.

  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that the chunk of amber containing the bird skull may have come from a region in Myanmar that millions of years ago was part of an island chain.