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Re: nomenclatorial problems



> literature or in our culture, they do come up.  Another problem is that
> about half of my students have had no foreign language, hence no skills
> for learning the meaning of "non-sensical" syllables, or translating; it
> doesn't seem to help to explain the origin of the words--it's still Greek
> to them!

     Wheras words like "rhinoceros", "hippopotamous", and "armadillo"
are derived from the king's english?  Perhaps we should rename these
"horn-nosed thing", "big fat purple thing", and "funny little armoured
thing".  Greek and Latin dinosaur names are (usually) elegant and lovely,
and can be rattled off with a little practice.  Ask any six year old.

> the obscure specimens. What are the standards for establishing new
> genera, as opposed to just new species?  What procedures should be
> followed when type material and a name already exist, as opposed to
> finding something altogether new?

    That is the million dollar question of paleontology.  Identifying
individual variation, sexual dimorphism, and different species is
something that biologists and zoologists use soft anatomy and behavior to
determine, something obviously useless to paleontologists.  In the last
ten or fifteen years, some people have started looking a lot closer at
osteological variation within these groups in modern animals.  However,
this does not neccesarily improve matters.  Some modern closely
related species have virtually identical osteology, wheras some species
have considerable osteological variation between individuals.  Then there
is sexual dimorphism.  A female tiger probably has more in common
with her biology and osteology with a female lion that either do with the
males of thier respective species.  Males and females really ARE from
different planets.  How do we detect these differences in fossil
animals?  With considerable difficulty, if at all.
     Keep in mind that taxonomy is an attempt to reconstruct the
relationships of animals, which are extremely complex no matter how much
we might want them to be simple.  The relationships are complicated
so the taxonomy has to be as well.  For paleontology, the
difficulty in detertmining relationships is multiplied tenfold for
the reasons stated above, making the mess even bigger.  If there is
uncertainty about how closely related two animals are, putting them iin
seperate groups is safer.  Its a pain,
but there isn't much we can do about it except for getting a better
understanding of osteological variability in modern animals.  Remebering
the names of all the states in America may be a pain, but erasing the
names on a map will not cause them to cease to exist.
     If you think dinosaur taxonomy is complicated today, think how it
would be if a new name will still being given to every bone pulled out of
the ground like they did a hundred years ago.

LN Jeff
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