Nomenclatural consequences of the Oculudentavis khaungraae case, with comments on the practice of ‘retraction’ of scientific publications


en Zoosystema 42 (23) - Pages 475-482

Published on 21 August 2020

The recent publication in the journal Nature of a paper describing a new fossil as a ‘hummingbird-sized dinosaur’, followed immediately by a rebuttal stating that it was in fact a lizard, and then by the ‘retraction’ of the original paper, raised concerns about the nomenclatural availability of the new binomen Oculudentavis khaungraae that it introduced. It is shown here that so-called ‘retraction’, by authors, editors or publishers, of a controversial paper, has no bearing under the Rules of the Code on the nomenclatural availability of the paper and of the new nomina or nomenclatural acts it may contain, which can be withdrawn only by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature acting under its Plenary Power. It is furthermore argued that the principle of ‘retraction’ of scientific publications itself is anti-scientific, harmful to the history of science, and belongs in the domain of ‘denialism’: it should be fully abandoned by serious scientific journals.


Nomenclatural availability, retraction of publication, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, Plenary Power, history of science, denialism, scientific publications

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