Some 100 million years in the past in a seaside mangrove swamp in what we humans now contact Myanmar, a certainly bizarre dinosaur flitted about, stalking its insect prey. Its head was just a half-inch long, producing it smaller than the smallest residing fowl, the bee hummingbird. Its mouth was packed with needle teeth, which hung above its lessen beak, providing it a little bit of a derpy vibe. For a fowl-like predatory dinosaur, its eyes were oddly positioned on the sides of its head, indicating it possibly didn’t have binocular eyesight.

The tiny traveling dino snagged a bug listed here, and snagged a bug there. Then it perished in some way. And thankfully for paleontologists, it got included in sap that hardened into amber, preserving its skull in amazing depth. But in spite of it remaining a speck among its lumbering dinosaur peers, it has persisted on by way of the ages. Now that it has been unearthed by a staff of paleontologists, it’s offering them tantalizing clues to how it lived the most miniature of lives.

Courtesy of Li Gang

It’s also boosting a lot of issues, for the reason that, in technical conditions, it is also just … bizarre. “It just has morphologies that are all more than the area, and also has morphologies that are compared with any hen or dinosaur at all,” says 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 Character. “Because it really is so odd and because we only have a skull, it’s seriously difficult to understand. It really is this actually bizarre evolutionary puzzle.”

Let us try out to place some pieces together. To start off with, O’Connor and her colleagues had to make sure the specimen was not so modest simply because it was a child. “Only irresponsible paleontologists identify species from juveniles,” O’Connor claims. “The morphology is heading to improve.” If you feel about human toddlers, for case in point, we start out with disproportionately large heads and eyes. We end up expanding into them. But an significant clue about this new dinosaur was that the bones of its skull were being fused with each other when it died. (As with individuals, some species are born with skulls that are not absolutely joined in infancy, enabling the brain to improve. The skull later on fuses all-around it.) So in this article was proof that the new dino was an exceedingly tiny grownup, not a newborn.

Courtesy of Han Zhixin

Yet another piece of the puzzle was that tooth-packed beak. Present day birds lack enamel, of course, mainly because of an evolutionary quirk of their lineage. In the time of the dinosaurs, the Cretaceous period of time, there have been many fowl lineages with all sorts of unique enamel. But the just one that gave rise to modern-day birds didn’t have them, so chickens and ostriches absence them as well—even species like falcons that try to eat meat. Fish-ingesting birds, however, are likely to have hook-like projections in their mouths that assistance them keep on to their wiggling prey. “You can just Google search ‘penguin mouth,’ and it truly is actually gross and strange,” claims O’Connor.

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