Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Too Evocative a Name to Lose

In the midst of some really horrible news, here's a bright note- the name Brontosaurus will be restored to an iconic sauropod dinosaur. The name Brontosaurus was in 1879 to a nearly complete fossil dinosaur discovered by Othniel C. Marsh. In 1877, Marsh had given the name Apatosaurus to an incomplete sauropod skeleton he had discovered. In 1903, Elmer S. Riggs determined that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were one and the same, and the rules of binomial nomenclature mandate that the earlier name for a genus takes precedence (this can be circumvented in the case of misidentified organisms- for instance, the cane toad was originally lumped into the genus Bufo but now is more commonly included in the genus Rhinella).

In the case of Brontosaurus, a recent analysis of fossil remains by a team led by Paleontologist Emanuel Tschopp of Portugal’s Universidade Nova de Lisboa has determined that there were sufficient anatomical differences between Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus to restore the generic name Brontosaurus.

Brontosaurus has had a pretty strange "journey"- before the name was retired, the "type" specimen of the fossil lacked a head, so a "conjectural" skull largely based on fragmentary remains of a skull of the sauropod Camarasaurus was mounted with the skeleton. Camarasaurus had a much blunter head than those of diplodocids such as Apatosaurus and, once and now Brontosaurus. The Apatosaurus in Rudolf Zallinger's famous mural in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History portrays this "pug faced" dinosaur.

I'm happy that the name Brontosaurus has been rescued from its non-official status. Its meaning, "thunder lizard", is too evocative to lose... imagine the rumble that a herd of them would have produced as they traversed the landscape!


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Yes! I approve of thunder lizards.


mikey said...

Now it only remains to explain the very odd chunk of Hadrosaur pelvis I have in my sock drawer...

Wait - it wants me to select the soup. When did Captcha become an IQ test?

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Yes! I approve of thunder lizards.

No doubt!

Now it only remains to explain the very odd chunk of Hadrosaur pelvis I have in my sock drawer...

Ah, yes, the one with the slug in it... I think it was the aliens what did it.