In March 2020, scientists and scientists announced the discovery of one of the smallest fossil birds It was not detected and its size did not exceed five centimeters. It is a skull preserved in Burmese amber that is 99 million years old, which allowed the identification of this new species called Oculudentavis khaungraae. But the story is not so simple after all…
New skull confirms suspicions
Immediately after the publication of the research on this bird, some specialists expressed doubts about this identification. So that review nature Its publication was withdrawn after a few months. Today, a team from the Florida Museum of Natural History announced the discovery of a new skull, recaptured in amber, with features similar to the others. His analysis published in the journal current biology, decided it belonged to the same genus, but was of the newly named species Dragon Oculudentavis.
Fossil preserved in amber from Oculudentavis naga. attributed to him: Adolphe Peretti / Peretti Museum Foundation / Current Biology.
Above all, researchers emphasize that it is not a bird but a lizard with very unusual characteristics. To resolve the controversy, they studied the two skulls and the small pieces of spine attached to them on a scanner and digitally reconstructed each of their bones. Details such as the presence of scales and a skull bone in the shape of a hockey stick, which all the domes share, allowed it to be determined that these were indeed the remains of two lizards, not birds.
Reconstruction of the skull of Oculudentavis naga (top) and the skull of Oculudentavis khaungraae (bottom). Credit: Edward Stanley of the Florida Museum of Natural History/Pereti Museum Foundation/Current Biology.
The team also found that the skulls of both species were deformed during storage. maskOculudentavis khaungraae compressed, giving it the appearance of a beak and misleading its early discoverers. On the other hand, if they were positive about identifying stochastics, they would have failed to locate these lizards in the evolutionary tree. It could be a new, hitherto unknown group. The Cretaceous Period, 145.5 to 66 million years ago, spawned numerous groups of lizards and snakes, but it was not easy to trace the history of fossils from this time to their closest living relatives.