Hummingbired-sized dinosaur fossil found in a Myanmar mine

Jessica McDermand, Photographer

It is not every day that a scientific discovery is made, but when these things happen it is spectacular. In 2016, a fossil was discovered by collector Khaung Ra and then donated to the Hupoge Amber Museum in Tengchong, China for further study. The fossil was found in a mine in Myanmar and was preserved in a ball of amber. Paired with how small the fossil was, it made it difficult to first identify what species the animal encased in amber actually was.

Researchers have since been working together to understand what and when this creature had come from, eventually finding some answers in their teamwork. The fossil found in the amber showed many similar physical traits to that of a bird and lizards. The fossil was measured to be about one-point-five centimeters long, which is very close in size to a hummingbird. It also had a very distinct eye shape, which researchers could tell from the pristine condition of the fossil.

Hummingbirds are notorious for being small creatures and they give a good estimate on the size of the animal while it was living. Although only the skull of the creature was found, it still gave researchers enough information to study it. The other distinct feature of the dinosaur fossil was its many sharp teeth, which led the researchers to believe the fossil needed to undergo further examination before being categorized.

The newfound scientific name for the newly discovered dinosaur is Oculudentavis and is a combination of Latin words derived from the fossil’s physical features. However, the common name for the species is Khaungraae, named after its collector. This fossil is known for its particularly different set of features and is not comparable with nearly any other dinosaur species.

Since the discovery of the fossil in the amber mine in Myanmar, there has been an increase of those trying to recover more fossils in the same area. Another fossil in the same area was also found protected in amber, however, it was just a tail. Looking for these fossils can prove to be dangerous if those looking are not careful and equipped with the right tools. Working in old mines is not a safe job to undergo and there are always many threats and dangers present in this particular job. Some scientists are even given grants to help fund this extraordinary scientific endeavor, in hopes that more fossils can be recovered safely.

“It’s revealing a completely different ecological niche that we never knew existed,” Jingmai O’Connor, Paleontologist and researcher at the institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, said.

O’Connor has a decorated background in the scientific study of Mesozoic birds and fossils, which qualified her in the prospect of studying a new potential dinosaur species. She has recently made many other important and relevant discoveries that has changed what scientists know about life on earth before humans.

Many researchers such as O’Connor have expressed that they believe this will open many opportunities for the scientific community and investigation of species that lived on earth millions of years ago. Not only will fossils fuel the investigation for new information, but it will unveil that of which researchers have yet to learn.

This fossil preserves life that lived on Earth 99 million years ago during the prehistoric period and tells the story of a new animal species, which humans would have never otherwise known about. While incased in amber, the fossil remained completely intact with no apparent damages.

This fossil has definitely brought up many questions that scientist and researchers are now attempting to uncover, especially with all that is going on in the world currently. Although research might temporarily be halted due to the new COVID-19 virus, scientists and researchers will continue to do all that they can in hopes of finding or discovering more about this new fossil and the possibilities it creates, including that of the new species still left to discover.