Volume 579 Issue 7798, 12 March 2020

Small wonder

The piece of amber on this week’s cover is just 31.5 millimetres across. Found in Myanmar, it contains the complete skull of what is believed to be the smallest known dinosaur from the Mesozoic era. Described in this issue by Jingmai O'Connor and her colleagues, the skull is around 99 million years old and is from a primitive bird-like species the researchers have named Oculudentavis khaungraae. The skull itself is a mere 14.25 mm long, meaning that the creature was similar in size to the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) — the smallest living bird. The small aperture of the eye suggests that O. khaungraae would have been active in well-lit daytime environments, and the long row of teeth on the jaws hint at a predatory diet that consisted mainly of invertebrates. The diminutive size of the fossil hints that miniaturization may have evolved earlier than was previously thought.

Cover image: Xing Lida

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