The Teeny-Tiny Flying Dino With a Mouth Full of Needle Teeth

Some a hundred million yrs ago in a seaside mangrove swamp in what we individuals now simply call Myanmar, a actually bizarre dinosaur flitted about, stalking its insect prey. Its head was just a fifty percent-inch lengthy, producing it scaled-down than the smallest living chicken, the bee hummingbird. Its mouth was packed with needle tooth, which hung above its lessen beak, giving it a little bit of a derpy vibe. For a chicken-like predatory dinosaur, its eyes were oddly positioned on the sides of its head, that means it in all probability did not have binocular eyesight.

The little traveling dino snagged a bug below, and snagged a bug there. Then it perished in some way. And the good thing is for paleontologists, it bought protected in sap that hardened into amber, preserving its cranium in incredible depth. But even with it becoming a speck amongst its lumbering dinosaur peers, it has persisted on via the ages. Now that it has been unearthed by a crew of paleontologists, it’s giving them tantalizing clues to how it lived the most miniature of lives.

Courtesy of Li Gang

It’s also raising a ton of questions, for the reason that, in technical conditions, it’s also just … bizarre. “It just has morphologies that are all above the position, and also has morphologies that are in contrast to any chicken or dinosaur at all,” states paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, who coauthored a new paper describing the specimen in the journal Nature. “Because it is really so bizarre and for the reason that we only have a cranium, it is really truly challenging to realize. It really is this truly bizarre evolutionary puzzle.”

Let’s consider to set some pieces together. To start with, O’Connor and her colleagues experienced to make positive the specimen was not so little just for the reason that it was a newborn. “Only irresponsible paleontologists identify species from juveniles,” O’Connor states. “The morphology is going to improve.” If you assume about human babies, for case in point, we start out with disproportionately massive heads and eyes. We end up expanding into them. But an vital clue about this new dinosaur was that the bones of its cranium were fused together when it died. (As with individuals, some species are born with skulls that are not thoroughly joined in infancy, making it possible for the mind to develop. The cranium later on fuses all-around it.) So below was evidence that the new dino was an exceedingly little adult, not a newborn.

Courtesy of Han Zhixin

A further piece of the puzzle was that tooth-packed beak. Modern-day birds deficiency tooth, of system, for the reason that of an evolutionary quirk of their lineage. In the time of the dinosaurs, the Cretaceous period of time, there were quite a few chicken lineages with all sorts of different tooth. But the one particular that gave increase to modern birds did not have them, so chickens and ostriches deficiency them as well—even species like falcons that try to eat meat. Fish-consuming birds, though, are likely to have hook-like projections in their mouths that assistance them hold on to their wiggling prey. “You can just Google research ‘penguin mouth,’ and it is really truly gross and bizarre,” states O’Connor.