On March 26th, I released an article that discussed the discovery of Oculudentavis, an incredible fossil skull that is preserved in amber. At the time of writing, Oculudentavis was widely considered to be the skull of a dinosaur, thus making it the smallest dinosaur species known and an incredibly significant species in understanding the evolution of dinosaurs into birds. While the idea of Oculudentavis was fascinating to say the least, plenty of people (including myself) doubted its status as a dinosaur. The majority of my article in March was dedicated to outlining why Oculudentavis isn’t a dinosaur, citing skeletal features such as dental structure, skull shape and the noticeable lack of the antorbital fenestra, openings in the side of the skull which are present in all dinosaurs. These quirks in the skull led paleontologists (and me) to the conclusion that Oculudentavis was not a dinosaur, rather a species of lizard. Now, it would seem that our suspicions are confirmed.
On July 22, 2020, the paleontologists who published the original Nature article describing Oculudentavis rescinded their previous claim, stating that a “new, unpublished specimen casts doubts upon our hypothesis”. In doing so, they all but confirmed that Oculudentavis is not the world’s smallest dinosaur, but rather an individual of a less recognized group of animals. Although the true identity of Oculudentavis will remain a mystery until the research from the new specimen is published, I would be willing to bet that Oculudentavis turns out to be a lizard of some sort.
Despite its status as not-a-dinosaur, Oculudentavis is still a beautiful and fascinating fossil. I mean, who doesn’t think a head trapped in amber is awesome? Asking for a friend.
While the Oculudentavis fossil is intriguing, the amber fossils of Myanmar are found through inhumane methods and are used to fund war within the country. As such, these fossils are better off left in the ground until they can be collected properly.
If you would like to check out a more in-depth article on Oculudentavis, click the link below:
Oculudentavis in amber found Here
Oculudentavis 3D skull found Here
Xing, L., O’Connor, J.K., Schmitz, L. et al. Retraction Note: Hummingbird-sized dinosaur from the Cretaceous period of Myanmar. Nature (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2553-9