The Truth About The Smallest Dinosaur In The World

Dinosaurs were some seriously big mofos. Everybody knows that. It's a huge part of the reason that children love them, because what's cooler than a sharp-toothed, giant monster that doesn't just exist in the movies, but once really walked the Earth? Nonetheless, as those same expert kiddos will tell you, not every dinosaur could overturn a school bus with its jaws. There were also an array of smaller ones, and no, that doesn't just include cute little newborns like the baby T-rex, and those famously small compsognathus critters you remember from Jurassic Park

There were some awfully tiny dinos out there

As ThoughtCo points out, the aforementioned compsognathus was, for a long time, considered to be the smallest dinosaur. After all, these pipsqueaks were only two feet long, and weighed five pounds, rendering them roughly the size of your Thanksgiving turkey. As with any dinosaur stat or ranking, though, it was only a matter of time before smaller dinosaurs were discovered. 

The Atlantic reports that one of the smaller dinosaurs in history was certainly the Yi qi (Mandarin for "strange wing"), pictured above, first discovered by a farmer in northeast China. Measuring about 23 inches, what made the Yi qi discovery additionally bizarre was its long wrist-rod, which suggests that the dinosaur had the leathery membranes of a bat. Picture a bird with bat wings, and you'll get the idea. Small as the yi qi might've been though, an even smaller — though otherwise quite similar — fossilized creature was also discovered in China, according to LiveScience, which measured only 13 inches, and was dubbed the Ambopteryx longibrachium. Yeah, that looks hard to say, but your six-year-old niece or nephew could probably teach you. Maybe.

Determining the smallest of the small isn't so cut and dry, however. From the "slender runner" known as Parvicursor to the 12 inch long Eosinopteryx brevipaenna, there are a lot of itsy-bitsy dinos. Sometimes there are false alarms, too: back in the seventies, the bones of the Argentinian Mussaurus, or "mouse lizard" were later found to belong to an infant, rather than an adult. Oops.

An even smaller dinosaur is ... alive today?!

Ask any dino expert what velociraptors really looked like, and they'll tell you that many "terrible lizards" you know and love actually looked a hell of a lot like birds. Here's the thing, though. Birds don't just resemble dinosaurs. They are dinosaurs. Or, technically, one particular lineage of dinosaurs, which survived the great asteroid apocalypse and has continued evolving.

Based on this logic, then, the smallest dinosaur in Earth history is alive today, and it's called the bee hummingbird. Found only in Cuba, according to the Audubon Society, these mini-avians measure only a little over two inches, build nests the size of a quarter, and are generally so diminutive that people often confuse them for bees. So, if you want to see the smallest dinosaur in Earth history, don't go to a museum, but instead, purchase a visa and plane ticket combo.