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Re: Brontosaurus/Apatosaurus

At 9:05 PM 10/11/95, Jeffrey Martz wrote:
>     I appear to be in the minority of people of like the scientific
>names of animals as much or more than nicknames, and who is not terribly
>concerned which the "appropriatness" of the translation.  I've heared
>Apatosaurus maligned because "Thunder lizard" is more appropriate for the
>animal than "deceptive lizard".  I also recall someone hoping that
>Deinonychus would would not be shown to be cogeneric with Velociraptor
>because "terrible claw" is more appropriate than "swift thief".  I fail to
>understand what the big deal is.  Whn people discuss these animals they
>don't use the translation, they use the scientific names.  Whether you
>call it Apatosaurus or Brontosaurus, you are talking about the same
>sauropod dinosaur, so I don't think the translation is horribly

        I agree with this 100%.  Not only do I loathe, abhore, and despise
such moronic movies as _The Land Before Time_, which single-handedly
cretinized the country's children (in the sense that _before_ the movie
they were able to learn names such as _Diplodocus_ and _Tyrannosaurus_, but
_after_ the movie could only say "longneck" and "sharptooth"), but I find
dinosaur etymology rather fascinating.  I have no problem with either
_Apatosaurus_ or "Brontosaurus" on etymological grounds, but hey, rules are
rules:  _Apatosaurus_  came first.  Period.  End of story.  Since the
advent of _Jurassic Park_, kids have reversed their _Land Before Time_
trend, and can (and do!) once again know true dinosaur names (although the
_new_ problem is that they believe such nonsense as frilled, spitting
_Dilophosaurus_, etc.  8-)  )

        Not to say there haven't been truly hideous dinosaur names proposed
and used...I give you "Clevelanotyrannus."  Ugh, what a disgusting looking
and sounding name!  Frankly, I rather enjoy names like _Opisthocoelocaudia_
and "Therizinosauroidea."  I also enjoy well-thought-out and truly
inventive names, such as the mythological background behind the name
_Achelosaurus_.  I do _not_ like generic names that pander:  there is
little creativity in _Supersaurus_ and _Ultrasaurus_ (what's next?
"Superdupersaurus?")  but _Seismosaurus_ has merit.  Both _Deinonychus_ and
_Velociraptor_ are quite wonderful words; so is _Troodon_.

        As for the creation and useage of "common" names for dinosaurs:  we
simply don't need them.  Do we have common names for every extant organism?
Hardly: imagine trying to create common names for every species of beetle,
or every species of ant.  Silly!  Imagine living in the Jurassic,
surrounded by sauropods, and saying "Those over there by the stream are the
Greater Yellow-Bellied Longnecks; the Lesser Yellow-Bellies live further
north.  In the grove of trees are the Grey Pine Sucking Longnecks, and if
you strain your eyes, you can see a lone Seven-Striped Longneck beyond the
grove.  The main predators of the Longnecks are the Nose-Horned Gronkers
and the Red Gronker and Black-Spotted Gronker..." _ad nauseum_.  Forget it.
It's much more interesting, educational, and straightforward to stick with
one set of names.  Remember that the common names of most modern animals
were created before Linneus; after that, most scientists just stick to the
scientific terms.

Jerry D. Harris                       (214) 768-2750
Shuler Museum of Paleontology         FAX:  (214) 768-2701
Southern Methodist University         jdharris@lust.isem.smu.edu
Box 750395                            (Compuserve:  73132,3372)
Dallas  TX  75275-0395

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"The largest land animal of all time was _Megabrontotherium_.  Standing
12,000 feet high at the withers, its shadow alone weighed 500 pounds."

                                --  T. Weller, _Science Made Stupid_

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