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Re: Saurus plurals



To clarify and expand the subject of plural forms of dinosaur names, I've
selected some sample sentences, taken from books written by well-respected
authors. (I've always thought that educators would like some sort of
"style manual" for usage of dinosaur names. I don't know if these
"conventions" have ever been technically explained, but it's one of the
things that public school teachers think about in their efforts to present
information to kids properly.)

Example 1 from Paul's _Predatory Dinosaurs of the World_, p. 35, the
caption for illustration 2-6 reads: "A _Ceratosaurus nasicornis_ bounces
on its heavy tail kanagroo-style to kick out with its big foot claws and
intimidate two _Allosaurus fragilis_."
    This example show some conventions such as 1) the underscore marks
indicating that the genus and species names are italicized; 2) the genus
name is initial letter upper case but the species name is initial
letter lower case; 3) the singular and plural of "Allosaurus" is the same.
(I take it that the singular/plural convention extends to all genus names,
whether they end in the suffix "-saurus" or not. Thus we would have a
sentence like "A herd of twelve _Iguanodon_ came to the river to slake
their thirst.")

Example 2 is from Currie's article "Theropods" in Farlow and
Brett-Surman's _The Complete Dinosaur_, pp 228-229: "Bonebeds document the
presence of herds of hadrosaurs in the same region..."
    This example shows the convention of using a more generic term that is
not genus specific and therefore requires neither capitalization nor
italicization. (Would the purists, however, prefer "hadrosaurids" rather
than "hadrosaurs?" A few sentences later Currie writes: "If the
hadrosaurs were indeed on a north-south migratory pattern, it is
conceivable that tyrannosaurids were following the herds, picking off the
young, weak, sick, and old individuals." Why is it proper to use the
suffix "-id" with "tyrannosaur" but not with "hadrosaur"? Is that purely
the writer's choice, or is there an actual usage rule? Would it have been
acceptable to use "tyrannosaurs" instead of "tyrannosaurids"?)

----- Amado Narvaez 

On Tue, 20 Jul 1999, Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. wrote: 
> Okay, the plural of "-saurus" would be "-sauri".
> 
> HOWEVER:
> 
> Dinosaur taxonomic names, when used in their formal (Latin) form should
> *NEVER* be pluralized.  They refer to the taxon, and not to an individual of
> that taxon.
> 
> For example, there is only one _Tyrannosaurus_, only one _Triceratops_, only
> one _Stegosaurus_.  There were millions of individuals of these genera, yes.
> But the names refer to the taxon as a whole, never to individuals of that 
> taxon.
> 
> This is nothing peculiar to paleontology: it is equally incorrect to make
> plurals of _Homo_ or _Rattus_ or _Drosophila_: yes, there are about 6
> billion humans, billions more of rats, and billions upon billions of fruit
> flies, but only one _Homo_, one _Rattus_, one _Drosophila_, so we don't use
> homines or ratti or drosophilae.
> 
> In the case of the modern forms, we have formal taxonomic names and
> vernacular forms of these names as well: humans for _Homo_, rats for
> _Rattus_, fruit flies for _Drosophila_ (plus many more additional names in
> every language in the world).  For extinct forms, though, we don't have
> vernacular names per se.  People do use "tyrannosaurs" as a vernacular (I
> know I do), but are you referring just to _T. rex_, to the taxon
> _Tyrannosaurus_ as a whole, or to all of Tyrannosauridae?
> 
> Every so often people suggest coming up with a common name for each dinosaur
> ("king tyrant lizard" for _T. rex_, for example), but this goes against the
> contribution of Linnaeus (one universal name for each species regardless of
> the speaker's native language).
> 
> Yes, it does make things difficult when writing stuff for kids (I know, I've
> been there myself), but it is a trade off with which we are willing to live.
> 
> Hope this helps.