What was as soon as considered the smallest dinosaur ever discovered has now been confirmed to be a lizard.
In March 2020, a Nature paper stirred some controversy when scientists recognized a cranium encased in 99 million yr outdated Myanmar amber as that of a tiny, bird-like dinosaur. The authors dubbed the specimen Oculudentavis khaungraae, and acknowledged the strangeness of the fossil—most notably, they discovered the form of the bones, particularly across the eye area, didn’t appear to observe different hen or dinosaur evolutionary patterns.
Following publication, different paleontologists refuted the paper’s findings. One other crew of scientists printed a preprint in bioRxiv in June of 2020, stating that the cranium extra intently matched one in all a lizard. The Nature paper was retracted in July of 2020. Launched as a preprint in August 2020, and now as a totally peer-reviewed research in Present Biology, one other research by a 3rd crew of scientists confirms that Oculudentavis is a lizard genus.
The brand new paper relies on one other, higher preserved specimen—a fossil additionally from Myanmar, whose cranium is a couple of half an inch lengthy, and likewise round 99 million years outdated. Utilizing CT scans and 3D transforming, the authors concluded that their fossil was a special species in the identical genus as O. khaungraae—they referred to as their specimen Oculudentavis naga—and that each species have been certainly unusual lizards quite than small dinosaurs.
“It’s a extremely bizarre animal. It’s not like some other lizard now we have in the present day,” Sam Houston State College herpetologist and research co-author Juan Diego Daza mentioned in a press release. He added that the Cretaceous Interval, when these fossils have been shaped, was when many lizard and snake teams emerged, however “they nonetheless hadn’t developed their fashionable look,” which explains why figuring out these fossils might be so difficult. “That’s why they will trick us. They might have traits of this group or that one, however in actuality, they don’t match completely.”
[Read more: This Australian behemoth is officially the largest dinosaur on the continent]
The way in which the amber fossils have been preserved distorted the skulls of each Oculudentavis specimens, which contributed to the unique misunderstanding. O. khaungraae’s snout was distorted right into a narrower cone form, giving a birdlike impression, whereas O. naga’s higher cranium was doubtless flattened throughout fossilization to seem extra lizard-like.
The genus identify Oculudentavis, established by the authors of the primary Nature paper, means “eye tooth hen” in Latin. Regardless that that identify is technically inaccurate now, Daza instructed CNN that taxonomic guidelines for naming and organizing animal species dictate that they should proceed utilizing it. “Since Oculudentavis is the identify initially used to explain this taxon, it has precedence and now we have to take care of it,” Daza mentioned. “The taxonomy might be generally deceiving.”