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Re: So what's a Brachiosaur?

>I'm not sure whether I understand Tracy Monaghan's question: "What's
>a Brachiosaur?"  ...Unless it means "Why do we sometimes see the word
>'Brachiosaurus' in a text and other times we see 'brachiosaur'?"

I think part of the confusion might be Jurassic Park related - many press
releases, posters, etc., said "the Brachiosaur, also known as the
brontosaurus" - a patently untrue statement!

>This might be something that should be included in the FAQ.
>As I understand it, "brachiosaur" (with a lower case "b" and no
>"-us" suffix) is a generic term (no pun intended) for the family
>name. Thus Brachiosaurus, Astrodon (or Pleurocoelus), Ultrasaurus
>and others are all brachiosaurs, but only one is a Brachiosaurus.
>Likewise, Tyrannosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Albertosaurus, et al are
>all tyrannosaurs, but only Tyrannosaurus rex and (as we learned
>recently from reading this list) Tyrannosaurus bataar are
>Tyrannosauruses. Does any other animal group have this confusion?
>In the hound family there are borzois, afghans, beagles, dachshunds,
>Irish wolfhounds, greyhounds, etc. but no Hound.

Actually, all those "hounds" members are the same species, Canis
familiaris.  You can think of the situation this way, however:  wolves,
foxes, tanuki (the Asian semi-arboreal "racoon" dog), coyotes, and domestic
dogs are all dogs (properly canids, members of the family Canidae, etc.),
but the name "dog" generally refers only to Canis familiaris (the domestic

>Am I correct in assuming that the statement "Daspletosaurus is a
>tyrannosaur" is identical to the statement "Daspletosaurus is a
>tyrannosaurid?" Is there a time when the "-id" suffix is more
>appropriate than the same designation without it?

Your statement is correct, and the preference is to use "-id" as much as
possible, to avoid confusion.

For example, if I say "ankylosaur", you don't know if I'm refering to all
the heavily armored dinosaurs (Ankylosauria), only the triangular-headed,
tail-clubbed forms (Ankylosauridae), or the final and largest genus of this
group (Ankylosaurus).  Less confusion would result if I had said
ankylosaurian, ankylosaurid, or Ankylosaurus.

Hope this helps.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.                                   
Vertebrate Paleontologist in Exile                  Phone:      703-648-5280
U.S. Geological Survey                                FAX:      703-648-5420
Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy
MS 970 National Center
Reston, VA  22092