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That “smallest dino” paper has been retracted


Apparently another team found a similar fossil which it thinks is a lizard:

With its bulbous eyes, 14-millimeter-long skull, and dozens of sharp teeth, it was “the weirdest fossil I’ve ever been lucky enough to study,” declared Jingmai O’Connor, the lead author of the paper and a researcher from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, China, in a press release issued when the paper was first published. The fossil was identified as a tiny bird, weighing just 2 grams, and given the name Oculudentavis khaungraae.

This interpretation, however, appears to have been flawed. This fossil, designated HPG-15-3, is probably a lizard, and not an avian dinosaur. As Giuliana Viglione reports at Nature News, the paper was retracted owing to the emergence of a similar fossil, which a separate team of scientists have identified as belonging to a lizard. George Dvorsky, “‘Weirdest Fossil’ Wasn’t a Dinosaur After All” at Gizmodo

O’Connor thinks Nature is too hasty:

Speaking to Retraction Watch, O’Connor said her team may have been wrong in their identification of the fossil, “but as we have demonstrated in a Matters Arising reply…the specimen cannot be unequivocally identified as either a bird or a squamate [lizard] without more material (which has come to light but is as yet unpublished and effectively does not exist to science yet).”

George Dvorsky, “‘Weirdest Fossil’ Wasn’t a Dinosaur After All” at Gizmodo

The “News & Views” article was retracted too.

If every paper whose ideas didn’t pan out were retracted, there wouldn’t be many papers out there.

See also: Tiny 99 Mya Bird (?) Skull Trapped In Amber Raises Many Questions

I don’t know enough about the retraction process. In the old days (before online journals) retractions were simply published in a subsequent issue of the journal. For obvious reasons, the retracted paper could still be found in the library. With online journals, are the retracted papers still available for review or are they removed? Inquiring minds want to know. Mac McTavish
Making a wrong guess on an ambiguous specimen doesn't deserve a retraction. This is a misuse of the retraction mechanism. Real science, which is extinct, formerly proceeded by making wrong guesses and then improving them. polistra

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