[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]
Re: Syntarsus says farewell....
<The probably synonymy of the two taxa in question was pointed out back in
Just for completeness, from Elmer Riggs, Field Museum, Chicago, the 1903
article, as quoted in Bully for Brontosaur:
The genus Brontosaur was based chiefly upon the structure of the scapula and
the presence of 5 vertebrae in the sacrum. After examining the type
specimens of these genera, and making a careful study of the unusually
well-preserved specimen described in this paper, the writer is convinced
that the Apatosaur specimen is merely a young animal of the form represented
in the adult by the brontosaur specimen.
Gould goes on to add,
Anyone could have applied to the commission for suppression of Apatosaurus
under the plenary powers in recognition of the widespread popularity and
stability of Brontosaurus. I suspect that such an application would have
succeeded. But no one bothered, and a good name remains in limbo. (I also
wish that someone had fought for suppression of the unattractive and
inappropriate name Hyracotherium in favor of the lovely but later Eohippus,
also coined by Marsh. But again, no one did.)
I do not always disagree with Gould, honest. He is, after all, the person
who wrote, in the Evolution by Walking article in Dinosaur in a Haystack:
The major, sequential branches on the cladogram are defined by traits that
arose since the last branching point, and have been held in common by all
subsequent lineages on this branch of the tree (such traits are called
"shared-derived," or, if jargon attracts you -- and this field has invented
the most god-awful argot -- "synapomorphic," which means the same thing.)
Anyway, in arguing against pure priority, he notes (back in Bully for
This [priority] decision may have ended the anarchy of capricious change,
but it introduced another impediment, perhaps even worse, based on the
exaltation of incompetence.... But when Ignatz Doofus publishes a new name
with a crummy drawing and a few lines of telegraphic and muddled description
in the proceedings of the Philomathematical Society of Pfennighalbpfennig
(circulation 533), it passes into well-deserved oblivion. Unfortunately,
under the Strickland Code of strict priority, Herr Doofus's name, if
published first, becomes the official moniker of the species -- so long as
Doofus did not break any rule in writing his report....
Even O. C. Marsh could act like Doofus:
In 1877, in a typically rushed note, O. C. Marsh named and described
Apatosaurus ajax in two paragraphs without illustrations... Although he
noted that this "gigantic dinosaur...is represented in the Yale Museum by a
nearly complete skeleton in excellent preservation," Marsh described only
the vertebral column...
In another 1879 article, Marsh introduced the genus Brontosaurus, with two
paragraphs..., no illustrations, and just a few comments on the pelvis and
Now what intrigues me from this summary is the reference to a 'nearly
complete skeleton' of Apatosaurus.
As Gould noted later,
Brontosaur soon became everyone's typical sauropod... for a simple and
obvious reason. Marsh's Brontosaur skeleton...remains to this day 'one of
the most complete sauropod skeletons ever found'.... Marsh mounted the
skeleton at Yale and often published his spectacular reproduction of the
entire animal. (Apatosaurus, meanwhile, remained a pelvis and some
So, it is possible that Marsh got so sloppy that he simply used the wrong,
unintended name in his first publication, and corrected himself later.
Authors can correct/reverse themselves, no?
Almost certainly wrong, I suppose, but interesting.
By the way, didn't know Syntarsus had such prevalence. Thank you for the
information. Think this might be a case when pure priority should be
overcome by plenary powers?