Just Let This Lizard Be a Dinosaur

Oculudentavis. Photo: ZHIXIN HAN/China University of Geosciences

Earlier this year, a group of scientists announced in the science journal Nature that they had discovered the tiniest species of dinosaur to ever dig its little toes into this planet we still inhabit. Enveloped in a 99 million-year-old drop of amber, they found a half-inch skull belonging to what they believed was a type of flying dinosaur and named it Oculudentavis, which means “eye-tooth bird.” “It’s really tiny,” one of the scientists said of the dinosaur at the time, adding, “and it’s just weird on multiple levels.”

Well, perhaps some of their bafflement can be traced to the fact that the exceptionally small dinosaur was not, in fact, a dinosaur. It wasn’t even a primitive bird. Instead, as the scientists disclosed in a recent retraction published in Nature, the precious skull belonged to a lizard.

While I understand on an intellectual level that there are valid reasons to reclassify the Oculudentavis — and I roundly applaud the scientists for their integrity — I can’t help but see this demotion as cruel and unnecessary. Sure, I know that dinosaurs are not simply gigantic lizards. But lizards and dinosaurs are both reptiles, which has to count for something. What if, just this once, we didn’t deny the Oculudentavis of the honor of being the cooler type of reptile? Can’t we just keep calling him a “hummingbird-sized dinosaur?” Would that really be so harmful?

All I hope is that the scientific community at large will at least take my argument into consideration, which I have now formalized in writing. As if what we did to Pluto wasn’t enough.

Just Let This Lizard Be a Dinosaur