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Discovery could Endanger T.Rex Name

Discovery could Endanger T.Rex Name

By The Associated Press
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Would a Tyrannosaurus rex by
any other name sound as scary? 

The ancient predator's Latin name -- which means
``tyrant lizard king'' -- may be on the endangered
list, according to a fossils expert. 

The T. rex, the first specimen of which was discovered
in Montana in 1902, was named three years later by
paleontologist Henry Osborn. 

But dinosaur bones unearthed last week at a South
Dakota ranch could be part of a fossil found earlier,
in 1892, and called Manospondylus gigas, said Peter
Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute of
Geological Research. 

If that's the case, Larson said, rules of paleontology
say the first name would take precedence. 

``That puts the name Tyrannosaurus rex in peril,''
Larson said Monday. 

Larson's company in 1990 dug up Sue, the most complete
T. rex fossil ever found. Last week, it excavated
about 10 percent of a fossil on a ranch in Perkins
County, the same general area where paleontologist
Edward Drinker Cope made his 1892 discovery. 

Cope didn't have enough of the fossil for the name he
chose -- Manospondylus gigas, which means ``giant,
thin vertebra'' -- to become the accepted terminology
for the species now known as T. rex, Larson said. The
discovery of the more complete fossil in 1902 by
Barnum Brown led to that designation. 

``You can't describe a species from a single bone or a
single tooth,'' Larson said. ``It doesn't tell you
what the whole animal looks like. It's not enough.'' 

Larson suspects the newly discovered bones, including
ribs, vertebrae, the jaw and parts of the skull, are
part of the same animal Cope found. With a fuller
complement of bones on hand, Larson believes the
terrifying T. rex could become Manospondylus gigas.
The fossil already has been nicknamed ``E.D. Cope.'' 

Carrie Herbel, a paleontologist at the South Dakota
School of Mines and Technology, is not so sure. A name
change would require overwhelming evidence that it is
the same creature, she said. 

``I think that would be very difficult at best,''
Herbel said. 

And then there's the dinosaur-enamored public --
especially children. 

``It would be a real hard sell,'' she said. ``I don't
think anybody in the world would want to change it.
People would be up in arms.'' 

Even Larson is not thrilled by the idea. 

``It would be very sad if the name had to be
changed,'' said Larson, who plans to conduct research
at the American Museum of Natural History in New York
to determine whether the fossils are from the same

The more recent fossils were discovered last December
by rancher Bucky Derflinger on his family's property.
Derflinger said he has no fear that Tyrannosaurus rex
will lose its place in the language. 

``Even people who don't know anything about dinosaurs
know what a T. rex is,'' he said. ``You can't replace
T. rex.'' 

Larson said the dinosaur is an adult male, perhaps 40
feet long and weighing about 6 tons. He said he plans
to do more excavating at the ranch. 

``Hopefully there will be just a little bit more,''
Larson said. 

The T. rex called Sue was unveiled May 17 at the Field
Museum of Natural History in Chicago. That skeleton is
named for Sue Hendrickson, the fossil hunter who found
it. The museum spent $8.36 million at an auction to
obtain the specimen, which scientists say is about 67
million years old. 


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