Tiny Ancient Skull Belongs To The Smallest Dinosaur

The piece of amber seen here is preserving an ancient and very tiny skull inside that scientists say is probably the smallest dinosaur ever discovered. The skull belongs to a tiny dino that weighed about 2 grams and is about two centimeters long. The bird-like skull suggests that the creature was about the size of the bee hummingbird.

That is the smallest living bird. Scientists say that the discovery could help them to understand how creatures evolved to be so small. The team says that it gives them a "whole new linage of birds." The tiny dino lived during the Mesozoic era that lasted from about 250 million to 65 million years ago.

The fossil in amber was found in the Kachin state in northern Myanmar and dated to 99 million years ago. It's said to be exceptionally well preserved for a specimen of its size. The small beak has dozens of sharp teeth suggesting that it ate insects and other small invertebrates in life. Its eyes protrude from the sides of its skull, meaning that unlike modern predators, it lacked binocular vision.

The small size and age of the creature shows scientists that the miniaturization of birds started much earlier than scientists thought. The team plans future studies of the fossil, including looking for biomolecules in the preserved soft tissue. To make those observations will require advances in research techniques that don't damage the specimen.

Sadly, the area where the fossil was discovered is war-torn, and conditions in the mines where the amber is found are such that some scientists question if they should be working there at all. The team says wherever the new fossil fits, it is a significant find.