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Polacanthus (Again)



The following was sent to our list by Nigel Woodger:

Greetings all
        Would I be  correct in thinking that while T H Huxley NAMED 
Polacanthus Foxii the animal was actualy DESCRIBED by the reverend Fox ? Any 
help on this gratefuly received.
                Regards
                        Spike
 (One for Darren-"An intellectual carrot?  The mind boggles......")   

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Here's my tuppence on the subject:

The story of how _Polacanthus_ got its name is interestingly complicated,
though not a hopeless tangle. The type skeleton was found by the Reverend
William Fox in the summer of 1865 in a bed of blue shaly clay in a cliff a
short distance from Barne's Chine, Isle of Wight. Richard Owen and the poet
Alfred, Lord Tennyson happened to visit the reverend together at Brixton
(Brighstone) shortly thereafter, and when Fox showed them the new find, Owen
realized it was a new genus of armored dinosaur. The first name he thought of
for it was _Euacanthus vectianus_. We know this because Tennyson's wife
dutifully wrote it in her diary. When the diary was published in 1897, the
name appeared as well, and it is now considered a junior synonym of
_Polacanthus foxii_, attributed to Owen in Tennyson.

Owen subsequently suggested the name _Polacanthus_ to Fox, who employed it in
his preliminary account of the discovery to the 1865 meeting of the British
Association for the Advancement of Science. The name first saw print in an
anonymous article about the meeting in the _Illustrated London News_ in
September 1865, attributed to Owen; the article may or may not have been
written by Fox himself. Unfortunately, Fox's manuscript describing the
dinosaur was lost in transit to the publisher (so I understand), leaving the
name hanging without a proper published description. But abstracts of Fox's
paper were published in at least three places in 1866, though without proper
descriptions of the genus. These are the first usages of the name
_Polacanthus_ definitely attributable to an author, namely Fox.

Despite the lack of a description, Thomas Henry Huxley considered
_Polacanthus_ valid and used it in his 1867 description of the nodosaurid
_Acanthopholis_. Huxley, incidentally, has the distinction of publishing the
first misspelling of the name (as Pholacanthus), in 1869. The genus continued
to dangle without a description or type species until the autumn of 1880,
when Fox let John Whitaker Hulke look over the _Polacanthus_ material with
the purpose of finally describing it. The description duly appeared in 1882
under Hulke's authorship in the _Philosophical Transactions of the Royal
Society_. Hulke named the type species _Polacanthus foxii_ (actually,
_Polacanthus Foxii_, but capitalization of the trivial name is no longer
admissible under ICZN rules).

---Excerpted without much editing from the forthcoming _Historical
Dinosaurology_ #2 by yours truly. If you like this kind of stuff, my series
will be chock full of it.

George O.