Photo in header of Oculudentavis khaungraae skull , Credit: Lida Xing
Discovering specimens preserved in Burmese amber has allowed Palaeontologists to identify an array of incredible dinosaurs, plants and insects that roamed Earth millions of years ago. The amber allows soft tissues, vertebrae and extra details such as feathers to remain almost completely in tact.
However, this most recent discovery of Oculudentavis khaungraae is thought to be 100 million years old and has a skull that is less than 2 centimetres in length. With large eyes, over a hundred teeth and a size similar to that of the world’s current smallest living bird; the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) its discovery is thought to explain how other creatures came to be so small. It also suggests that the bird was a predator, hunting small insects and other small invertebrates. With big eyes protruding from out of its skull implying it had no binocular vision (a common feature amongst predatory birds) and being the size it was, perhaps its easy to assume that regardless of the mass eradication of dinosaurs, it would have inevitably become extinct anyway.
Jingmai O’Connor and her team, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing , assigned the animal a new genus and species, Oculudentavis khaungraae; with the genus name meaning ‘eye-teeth bird’. The dinosaur itself weighed perhaps two grams and lived during the Mesozoic era, which lasted from about 250 million to 65 million years ago.
Further research on the fossil could be extremely difficult however, as advanced research techniques will have to be in place to ensure the tissues remain preserved on inspection.
Unfortunately, most amber specimens are found in war torn Myanmar and so pose ethical questions to scientists working on these specimens, if they should be working on them at all.
The above video will explain the hunt for fossils in amber in more detail.