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Ben Creisler has had some trouble getting e-mail through to the list,
so I'm submitting this on his behalf -- MPR:
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From: Ben Creisler email@example.com
Subject; RE: Specific Names
(I tried sending most of this message yesterday but had
some kind of server problem. Anyway, a few points have
already been discussed in Friday's postings.)
A couple of basic comments about names and meanings.
First, George is quite right that there is no substitute
for checking the ORIGINAL description, which, with luck,
contains an etymology or adequate clues as to what the
author of the name had in mind. Second, the name should
mean what the author/authors says he/she/they want it to
mean even if a strict reading of the etymology gives a
different literal meaning. As a result, I'm willing to
accept that the name Sinornithosaurus is meant to be
understood as "Chinese bird-like dinosaur" even if this is
not the literal meaning--in the context, this is the
meaning the authors had in mind. Names are sometimes
shortened to make them easier to pronounce or remember,
which can mean dropping or shortening word-roots.
Such contractions or understood elements can make some
names hard to decipher. Tracy Ford just sent me the
original Chinese description of the rhamphorhynchid
Dendrorhynchus (now Dendrorhynchoides). The literal
meaning of the name is "tree snout"--however, the Chinese
text says that "rhynchus" is being used as a suffix
derived from Rhamphorhynchus, and that the generic
name "signifies that (the genus) has a close similarity to
the genus Rhamphorhynchus." I'm still not exactly sure how
the "tree" part fits in--maybe "family tree" or
probably "tree" in the sense of classification. Since the
skull is completely disarticulated in the type specimen
and not restored, the literal meaning "tree snout" makes
no sense. Maybe there is some meaning of Chinese "shu"
("tree") that conveys the idea better in Chinese. I'm sort
of toying with the meaning "tree-of-Rhamphorhynchus,"
which should be evocative for cladists at least.
The misspelling "millenii" for "millennii" is a bit tricky-
- -I blame the editors at Nature. I haven't received my copy
of the new edition of the ICZN yet to see if they permit
spelling corrections. Under the 1985 edition (still in
force till the end of the year), an obvious misspelling
in a specific name can be fixed. Since the authors state
that the name refers to the Millennium (which they spell
correctly), I think a correction to "millennii" would be
OK. In principle, the double "ii" is OK and should be
retained under the 1985 ICZN.
I can comment on the following names without doing too
much extra research.
Cosesaurus is named for the Cose people who lived in
ancient Spain in the region where the fossil was found--
"aviceps" does indeed mean "bird-headed"--The critter was
first thought to be related to the ancestry of birds, a
point now much in dispute.
Ichthyornis dispar--Marsh gives pretty good clues as to
what he had in mind. The generic name "fish bird" refers
to the biconcave shape of the vertebrae, the shape that is
typical of fish vertebrae. Marsh thought the ancestry of
birds might go back to the Paleozoic and that the
biconcave vertebrae were an ancient trait. The specific
name "dispar" means "different," since modern birds have
saddle-shaped or heterocoelous vertebrae.
Zalambdalestes comes from Greek za "much, very" and
lambda, the Greek letter L, shaped like an upside down V,
from the term "zalambdodont," referring to the shape of
the crowns of the molar teeth, "such as would be seen in
the common ancestors" of recent zalambdodont insectivores
such as tenrecs and golden moles. I'd need to check on
exactly who Leche was in the specific name "lechei."
Kamptobaatar "bent hero," referring to the shape of the
zygomatic arches in the skull, directed at first
subtransversely and then bent posteriorly.
Tropeognathus mesembrinus "southern keel-jaw"--Latin
mesembrinus means "southern" here, for South America.
Compsognathus longipes "long-legged delicate jaw"--Latin
longipes could also mean "long-legged," which I believe is
closer to Wagner's original description. Glad to see
people are using the meaning "delicate jaw" for
Compsognathus rather than the somewhat off-base "elegant
jaw." The original description in German gives the meaning
as "zierlich + Kiefer"--German zierlich in this context is
closer to English "delicate."
I'm hoping to upgrade all my entries on Dinosauria On-line
to include the species from now on. Any new ones I add
have the species translated now at least.
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