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Re: Etymology of Caenagnathus--a final comment



From: Ben Creisler bh480@scn.org
Re: Etymology of Caenagnathus--a final comment

First, I want to apologize for seeming to overlook Dave 
David Marjanovic's posting about the etymology of 
Caenagnathus. I'd not kept up with the mailing list for a 
few days in January and started reviewing the postings in 
reverse order, latest first. I came across the thread 
concerning the suggested, and apparently baffling, 
etymology kain- "recent" + a "not, without" + gnath- "jaw" 
+ -us, supposedly meaning "recent jawless one". I 
immediately sent my own comments explaining that the more 
likely etymology was Greek kaine "recent" (feminine form 
of the adjective) + Greek gnathos "jaw" (a feminine noun 
when by itself). When I resumed reading the list I found 
Dave's posting essentially proposing the same etymology. I 
hope my own posting filled in a few more details, but I 
think Dave had it right. The name "recent jaw" would 
allude to its similarity to forms from the Cenozoic.

Though he doesn't provide an etymology, here's what 
Sternberg says in the original 1940 description:

Absence of teeth is a prominent avian character, although 
a character not confined to birds. All Cretaceous birds 
hitherto known from skulls or jaws possess well-developed 
teeth, and although Lambrecht lists several birds of 
modern aspect from the Cretaceous of Europe, our 
outstanding paleornithologists have always considered 
toothless birds in America to the confined to post-
Cretaceous times. Hence the occurrence of a toothless bird 
in the Cretaceous of Alberta is unexpected but not 
necessarily impossible. In an article titled "Fossil 
Birds", Dr. Wetmore writes:

"It is reasonable to expect that running forms and forms 
specialized for life among trees existed in that 
(Cretaceous) period in addition to the two types known, as 
birds have regularly adapted themselves to such 
environments."

It is reasonable to expect also that some of these forms 
would be toothless. From the size of the mandible, 
Caenagnathus might well be an example of a running type.