Dino-Bird Fossil Controversy
This "recantation" appeared ont he National Geographic
web site shortly after the orignial article appeared in the magazine.
Continued studies of a fossil specimen that was first thought to be a missing link between dinosaurs and birds have revealed that the fossil may be the remains of two or more extinct creatures.

Scientists now suggest that one part of the fossil may be a primitive toothed bird and another portion may be the tail of a dromaeosaurid dinosaur. Dromaeosaurs were one of a family of small- to medium-size predators that includes Jurassic Park's "raptors."

At a press conference held at National Geographic Headquarters October 15, a team of Geographic-supported experts unveiled the fossil, which they named Archaeoraptor liaoningensis. At the time, the team members announced that the 125-million-year-old creature, as well as two other fossils from China which were also featured, demonstrated that feathers were widespread among theropods, the carnivorous dinosaurs that include Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor.

Unique to the Archaeoraptor fossil, they said, was the presence of both a bird-like bone structure and a strong, dinosaur-like tail.

Following the announcement, team member Xu Xing of Beijing's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) returned home to China and traveled to Liaoning Province, where the fossil was discovered. While there inspecting the fossil site his suspicions began to grow that the dinosaur-like tail might not belong to the rest of the animal.

Following leads among Chinese fossil dealers, in late December Xu Xing visited a collector and found a fossil, which, he now suspects, is the counterpart to the tail of the Archaeoraptor specimen.

In addition, CT scans of the fossil, funded by National Geographic, seem to confirm Xu Xing's suspicions.

"It was disappointing to learn that Archaeoraptor may be a combination of animals," said Christopher Sloan, senior assistant editor of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and author of the magazine's article about the find, published last November. "But we're still convinced that Archaeoraptor is an important specimen. After all, if it is a composite, it is a composite of some very important 125 million-year-old fossils.

"National Geographic will continue to support efforts to study it fully."