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Apatosaurus (was Re: Fixing dinosaurian carnivour question)



At 08:25 AM 5/27/99 EDT, Philidor11@aol.com wrote:
>For example, the 
>decision to use apatosaur (which means something like misc. dino) was 
>unnecessary when brontosaur (thunder dino) was popularly accepted and 
>evocative.  From the Gould essay (Bully for Brontosaurus), it was possible to 
>retain the older term.  I wish that had been done.

To do this really briefly:
_Apatosaurus_ is the older term by two years (1877 vs. 1879).
The synonymy of these two genera was recognized as early as 1903.  The
popularity of _Brontosaurus_ grew in large part through politics within the
paleo-community (the great authority and PR machine of the AMNH and H.F.
Osborn, who loved the name "_Brontosaurus_" and (a separate issue) the short
stumpy head for the beast vs. Riggs and others).
It actually WOULD still be possible to resurrect "_Brontosaurus_" (the name,
not the taxon!) if it could be shown that _B. excelsus_ (the type species of
_Brontosaurus_) and _A. ajax_ (the type of _Apatosaurus_) were generically
distinct taxa.

>If some miscellaneous old 
>tooth named the Greek or Latin for 'banana tooth' turns out to be an older 
>naming than Tyrannosaurus Rex, I would really dislike seeing my other 
>favorite dinosaur name attacked.

Actually, the main candidate would be _Manospondylsus gigas_, an isolated
centrum from the Hell Creek Fm. almost certainly form _T. rex_.  However,
this is not like the case of _Apatosaurus_ and _Brontosaurus_ (where the
type material of the former is at least represented by multiple elements,
including vertebrae, which have been shown to demonstrate some diagnostic
features).

Nevertheless, if _Tyrannosaurus rex_ were so assailed, you are free to join
me on the barricade in the defense of the King! :-)

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:tholtz@geol.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661