Toothy "hummingbird dinosaur" turned out to be an ancient lizard

Toothy "hummingbird dinosaur" turned out to be an ancient lizard
Toothy "hummingbird dinosaur" turned out to be an ancient lizard
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Paleontologists have put an end to the debate about a strange animal found in amber from the Cretaceous period: this is not a primitive bird that still retained its teeth in its beak, but an ancient scaly lizard.

Oculudentavis naga reconstruction

Last year, Chinese paleontologists presented an amazing find - a fragment of ancient amber, which perfectly preserved the remains of one of the smallest dinosaurs in history. The sample was dated to about 99 million years old. Based on a tiny (a little more than seven millimeters) skull, scientists described a new species of flying dinosaurs, Oculudentavis khaungraae, which, with a size comparable to a hummingbird, still retained dozens of small and sharp teeth in its beak.

Even then, the work caused controversy, since many of the details of the anatomy of the animal were too unlike either dinosaurs or birds. This is indicated by the fresh work of European scientists who discovered and studied new remains, also preserved in amber. An article by Arnau Bolet and his colleagues from the Catalan Institute of Paleontology is published in the journal Current Biology.

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The authors note that the animal's teeth were directly connected to the jaw bones, which is not typical for the ancestors of modern birds with teeth. In addition, the new specimen retains individual scales covering the scalp, and the shape of its scaly bone, located at the back of the skull, is close to the shape characteristic of scaly reptiles (Squamata), which include snakes and lizards, but not birds and dinosaurs.

Apparently, they do not belong to the same, but closely related species: the authors named it Oculudentavis naga. Together with O. khaungraae, they represent an extinct group of scaly reptiles previously unknown to scientists.

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