A 99-million-year-old piece of amber was initially thought to contain a tiny skull belonging to the world’s smallest dinosaur species, but it actually turned out to be from a prehistoric lizard instead. This new species, named Oculudentavis naga as a tribute to the Naga people of Myanmar and India, is represented by a partial skeleton that includes a complete skull, which had deformed during preservation. Read more for a video and additional information.
Some of the major clues that lead the research team to believe the mystery animal was a lizard rather than a dinosaur included the presence of scales, teeth attached directly to its jawbone instead of sockets, lizardlike eye structures as well as shoulder bones, and a hockey stick-shaped skull bone found universally among scaled reptiles.
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It’s a really weird animal. It’s unlike any other lizard we have today. We estimate that many lizards originated during this time, but they still hadn’t evolved their modern appearance. That’s why they can trick us. They may have characteristics of this group or that one, but in reality, they don’t match perfectly,” said co-author of the new study Juan Diego Daza, a herpetologist and assistant professor of biological sciences at Sam Houston State University in Texas.