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Re: Dinosaurs Breathed Like Birds

Agreed, we should stick to names like the
awe-inspiring Allosaurus. Wow, what imagination! 

You know, with the discovery of larger theropods, even
'tyrant lizard king' has lost its gloss. Really, so
long as a name is memorable, and pronouncable, does it
matter if becomes a bit innaccurate? I think it adds
to the charm of a species if there's a little story
behind its name.


--- Tim Williams <twilliams_alpha@hotmail.com> wrote:

> Andrew Simpson wrote:
> >That's all I'm really saying. Descriptive names are
> >better for everyone and keep the place names,
> people
> >names and funny names to a minimum.
> Alas, descriptive names often turn out to be
> misleading.  A descriptive 
> genus or species name often contains an author's
> inference about the 
> physical characters or lifestyle of a creature.  For
> example, I've been told 
> that the name _Phorusrhacus_ translates as
> "branch-holder", because the 
> person (Ameghino) who named it thought he'd found
> the remains of a 
> prehistoric sloth.  As we now know, _Phorusrhacus_
> was a bird, and a fully 
> terrestrial one at that.
> Other examples abound, and the Dinosauria is full of
> them.  _Sarcolestes_ 
> ("flesh-robber") was likely a herbivore. 
> _Arrhinoceratops_ ("without 
> nose-horn face") DID have a nasal horn. 
> _Telmatosaurus_ ("swamp lizard") 
> probably did not live in marshes or swamps.  Ditto
> for _Elosaurus_ (now a 
> synonym of _Apatosaurus_).   Perhaps the most
> notorious example is 
> _Oviraptor_ ("egg-thief"), so named because (says
> Osborn) it was thought to 
> have been caught "in the very act of robbing the
> dinosaur egg nest [of 
> _Protoceratops_]."  (Hence the derivation of the
> species name 
> _philoceratops_).  It turns out that the nest
> belonged to _Oviraptor_.  This 
> does not mean that _Oviraptor_ did not feed on eggs,
> only that the 
> circumstances that gave rise to its descriptive name
> were wrong.
> _Nanotyrannus_ ("dwarf tyrant") may turn out to be a
> misleading 
> "descriptive" name too.   The genus was so named
> because the smallish-sized 
> type specimen was thought to come from an adult, and
> the specimen was 
> smaller than other tyrannosaurs, like _T. rex_.  Now
> it seems fairly certain 
> that the type specimen is juvenile, possibly of _T.
> rex_.  However, 
> "Nanotyrannus" may represent a young specimen of a
> new and LARGE species of 
> tyrannosaur.  I'm not faulting the esteemed persons
> who named it so; but it 
> does illustrate the limitations of purely
> descriptive names.
> Cheers
> Tim

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