Shades of Jurassic Park! Miniature dinosaur “exquisitely preserved in amber”

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Visitor “novice paleontology” by David Middleton

NEWS 11 MARCH 2020
This miniature cranium belonged to a 2-gram dinosaur

The 100-million-year-old animal might need been the smallest dinosaur.

Giuliana Viglione

A miniature creature exquisitely preserved in amber for nearly 100 million years might be the smallest dinosaur ever found.

The animal’s bird-like cranium, described in Nature on 11 March1, is lower than 2 centimetres lengthy — suggesting that the creature was the scale of the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), the smallest residing chicken. Its discovery may assist scientists perceive how such creatures developed to be so small.

“It reveals to us a complete new lineage of birds,” says Jingmai O’Connor, a palaeontologist on the Chinese language Academy of Sciences Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, who co-led the examine.


Additional analysis on the fossil — for instance, on the lookout for biomolecules in its preserved smooth tissue — would require advances in analysis strategies that don’t harm the specimen, O’Connor says.



A dino-bird in amber…

Beats two mosquitoes in an amber mine…

Tiny chicken fossil is perhaps the world’s smallest dinosaur
A tiny cranium trapped in 99-million-year-old amber means that among the earliest birds developed to grow to be miniature. The fossil illustrates how historical amber can act as a window into the distant previous.

Roger B. J. Benson

Dinosaurs had been huge, whereas birds — which developed from dinosaurs — are small. This variation is of nice significance, as a result of physique dimension impacts lifespan, meals necessities, sensory capabilities and lots of different basic features of biology. The smallest dinosaurs1 weighed tons of of grams, however the smallest residing chicken, the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae)2, weighs solely 2 grams. How did this distinction come about, and why? In a paper in Nature, Xing et al.three describe the tiny, fossilized, bird-like cranium of a beforehand unknown species, which they identify Oculudentavis khaungraae. The invention means that miniature physique sizes in birds developed sooner than beforehand acknowledged, and may present insights into the evolutionary technique of miniaturization.

Fossilization of bones in sediments corresponding to clay, silt and sand can crush and destroy the stays of small animals, and may flatten and decay smooth components corresponding to pores and skin, scales and feathers. Against this, preservation of small animals in Burmese amber (which shaped from the resin flows of coniferous bushes about 99 million years in the past) helps to guard their smooth components. A variety of invertebrates4 and small vertebrates, together with lizards5 and birds6, have been present in Burmese amber. Specimens preserved on this materials are quickly rising as an distinctive strategy to examine tiny vertebrates from the age of dinosaurs5,6.

It’s in Burmese amber that the only identified fossil cranium of Oculudentavis has been preserved (see Fig. 1a of the paper3). Oculudentavis means eye tooth chicken, a reputation that Xing et al. selected due to two uncommon options of the cranium, every of which offers proof in regards to the seemingly way of life of this 99-million-year-old species.


The evolutionary relationships between Oculudentavis and different dinosaurs and birds are troublesome to find out, however are central to clarifying the evolutionary implications of this discovery. Xing and colleagues’ evaluation suggests two potentialities. Oculudentavis may belong to the most typical group of birds of the Cretaceous interval (about 145 million to 66 million years in the past), the enantiornithines. Alternatively, it may very well be rather more intently associated to dinsosaurs, mendacity nearly halfway on the evolutionary tree between the Cretaceous birds and Archaeopteryx, the long-lasting winged dinosaur from the Jurassic.



The paper is pay-walled. Right here’s the summary:

Printed: 11 March 2020
Hummingbird-sized dinosaur from the Cretaceous interval of Myanmar
Lida Xing, Jingmai Okay. O’Connor, Lars Schmitz, Luis M. Chiappe, Ryan C. McKellar, Qiru Yi & Gang Li
Nature quantity 579, pages 245–249(2020)


Skeletal inclusions in roughly 99-million-year-old amber from northern Myanmar present unprecedented insights into the smooth tissue and skeletal anatomy of minute fauna, which aren’t sometimes preserved in different depositional environments1,2,three. Amongst a variety of vertebrates, seven specimens that protect the skeletal stays of enantiornithine birds have beforehand been described1,Four,5,6,7,eight, all of which (together with no less than one seemingly mature specimen) are smaller than specimens recovered from lithic supplies. Right here we describe an exceptionally well-preserved and diminutive bird-like cranium that paperwork a brand new species, which we identify Oculudentavis khaungraae gen. et sp. nov. The discover seems to signify the smallest identified dinosaur of the Mesozoic period, rivalling the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae)—the smallest residing chicken—in dimension. The O. khaungraae specimen preserves options that trace at miniaturization constraints, together with a singular sample of cranial fusion and an autapomorphic ocular morphology9 that resembles the eyes of lizards. The conically organized scleral ossicles outline a small pupil, indicative of diurnal exercise. Miniaturization mostly arises in remoted environments, and the diminutive dimension of Oculudentavis is subsequently per earlier options that this amber shaped on an island throughout the Trans-Tethyan arc10. The scale and morphology of this species counsel a beforehand unknown bauplan, and a beforehand undetected ecology. This discovery highlights the potential of amber deposits to disclose the bottom limits of vertebrate physique dimension.


Cool schist! Except… somebody will get the brilliant thought to genetically engineer dinosaurs from “biomolecules in its preserved smooth tissue”… 😉


Xing, L., O’Connor, J.Okay., Schmitz, L. et al. Hummingbird-sized dinosaur from the Cretaceous interval of Myanmar. Nature 579, 245–249 (2020).

Featured Picture

Oculudentavis khaungraae is had a cranium that was lower than 2 centimetres lengthy.Credit score: Lida Xing (Nature)

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