It's a bird! It's a dinosaur! No, apparently it's a lizard, as study authors issue retraction
It’s not a tiny flying dinosaur, just a lizard.
That was essentially the acknowledgment made by the authors of a March report about the celebrated discovery of what was thought to be the world’s smallest dinosaur, a bird-like creature less than the size of a hummingbird.
In late July, the researchers – including paleontologists Lida Xing and Jingmai O’Connor – issued a retraction in the journal Nature, where their initial study had appeared.
“Although the description of Oculudentavis khaungraae remains accurate, a new unpublished specimen casts doubts upon our hypothesis,’’ they wrote.
The animal, whose skull was found fossilized in a drop of amber in northern Myanmar in 2016, was given the scientific name Oculudentavis khaungraae.
Oculudentavis means “eye tooth bird,” reflecting notable features that give hints into how the animal lived some 99 million years ago. However, the skull is dominated by a large eye socket that's similar to a modern lizard’s eye.
Questions about the discovery were promptly raised, most notably by a group of researchers headed by Zhiheng Li of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who on March 18 posted that “this enigmatic animal … demonstrates various lizard-like morphologies.’’
The posting, which hasn’t been peer reviewed, went on to say the creature’s characteristic are more in line with a reptile, and it said “the avian or dinosaurian assignment of Oculudentavis is conclusively rejected.’’
In reporting the retraction, Nature said another team of researchers had discovered a similar fossil they classified as a lizard, which prompted O’Connor to say the new information does “definitely say that we were wrong.’’
Contributing: Doyle Rice