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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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To: dinosaur@usc.edu
From: Ben Creisler bh480@scn.org
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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