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Re: Amateur question
>From: "HEATHER RAMSAY" <RAMSAY@cfr.cfr.ncsu.edu>
> Please excuse my total amateur ignorance. At what point did the
> Brontosaurus become Aptosaurus and why? Was there something wrong
> with the original nomenclature?
If somebody has a copy of it, feel free to resend my long, detailed
description of this issue.
For now, the short answer:
The rules of nomenclature require that the first proposed name
for an organism be kept and all late names be rejected. In fossils,
where names are often applied to fragmentary skeletons, this rule
is frequently applied when the different fragments turn out to be
the same animal.
In this case, Marsh named one set of bones Apatosaurus, and later
named a different set of bones (eventually including an almost
complete skeleton) Brontosaurus. Later studies of these bones
determined they were very similar, and belonged in a singled
genus (though in different species). Thus, since the name
Brontosaurus was younger then the name Apatosaurus, it had to
give way to the older name.
Now, the real irony is that this was actually done way back in
the early part of this century, but a combination of unchanged
museum labels and a popular book describing the nearly complete
skeleton that Marsh assigned to Brontosaurus made that name
a household word, despite its being a junior synonym of Apatosaurus.
The peace of God be with you.