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RE: Precision, Ultra-, Super-, Seismo- and the like

David Marjanovic wrote:

> _Supersaurus_ won because although the two names were raised in the
> same paper (Jensen 1985), it was the first of the two to be named.

No, it won because the first revisor chose it so. Contrary to popular myth, page and line priority do not exist; the two names were published at the very same time.

When you think about it, it couldn't be any other way: _Supersaurus_ has to get priority over _Ultrasaurus_. (Warning: Dry nomenclature discussion coming up...)

_Ultrasaurus_ and _Supersaurus_ were both named in the same paper - but as you know, the name _Ultrasaurus_ was preoccupied by a Korean sauropod (Kim, 1983 - although this wasn't Kim's intention). Thus, _Ultrasaurus_ Jensen is nomenclaturally invalid. Later, a replacement genus was erected (_Ultrasauros_) by Olshevsky (1991). _Supersaurus_ (named 1985) has priority over _Ultrasauros_ (named 1991) in the event of synonymy.

_Dystylosaurus_ is a different kettle of fish. Nomenclaturally speaking, _Supersaurus_ and _Dystylosaurus_ are both available names, and in this sense both have equal claim to priority over _Ultrasauros_. The fact that _Dystylosaurus_ was sunk into _Supersaurus_ (rather than vice versa) is a subjective decision. However, given that _Supersaurus_ was described from a partial skeleton, and _Dystylosaurus_ from a solitary vertebra, this decision makes perfect sense on taxonomic grounds.

Mike Taylor wrote:

So the names _Ultrasauros_ and _Supersaurus_ became synonymous, and _Supersaurus_ won because although the two names were raised in the same paper (Jensen 1985), it was the first of the two to be named.

See above. Although _Ultrasauros_ was named as a replacement name for Jensen's _Ultrasaurus_, the two names must be treated independently when it comes to matters of nomenclature.

 > In that case, is the Brachiosaurus material just B. altithorax, or
 > another species, or is that impossible to say?

It's impossible to say, since no scapula of _B. altithorax_ has ever been described -- the type specimen preserves a coracoid, but that's not hugely diagnostic alone. Curtice et al. just referred it to _Brachiosaurus_ sp.

To take this a step further, given the lack of overlapping material between several of the specimens, it is not known if all the Morrison brachiosaur material belongs to _B. altithorax_ (e.g., the skull USNM 5730). _Brachiosaurus_ is a much rarer beast than other 'famous' Morrison sauropods, like _Apatosaurus_/_Brontosaurus_, _Diplodocus_, _Camarasaurus_ and even _Barosaurus_. Most of our info for _Brachiosaurus_ comes from the Tendaguru species, _B. brancai_. I would say that if USNM 5730 belongs to _B. altithorax_, then _B. brancai_ is a distinct genus (the two skulls are quite different). If USNM 5730 does not belong to _B. altithorax_, we have at least two brachiosaurid species in the Morrison.

Unlikely, due to _Supersaurus_ almost certainly not being _Diplodocus_ -- see the earlier thread.

Curtice proposed that _Supersaurus_ may be the same as _Barosaurus_; but this only appeared in an abstract, and the synonymy (and a new combination _B. vivianae_) is not official AFAIK. Though I could be wrong on that.

> If there is some doubt that _Supersaurus vivianae_ can be
> distinguished from _Diplodocus_, this merely makes _Supersaurus_ a
> junior subjective synonym of _Diplodocus_, not a nomen dubium.

Really, "if there is some doubt"? Does the burden of proof really lie all on one side? By the way, _Supersaurus_ is generally considered to be closest to _Barosaurus_, not _Diplodocus_ -- for good reasons I think. I know there is another hypothesis out there, but that hypothesis doesn't bring _Supersaurus_ any closer to _Diplodocus_.

I meant this as a hypothetical example. You're right, though.

> BTW, _Dystylosaurus_ (cursed with an un-sexy name, as stated by Gillette) is quite possibly the > same as _Supersaurus_, just like _Ultrasaurus_/_Ultrasauros_.

What's wrong with the name?

I've got nothing against _Dystylosaurus_. (I based the above statement on Gillette's article.) Alas, _Supersaurus_ and _Ultrasaurus_ have done a better job at capturing the public's attention, due to their sensational-sounding names.



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