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The Gift of Names: Tuditanus, Ennatosaurus, Bottosaurus, and more
The end of the year and the beginning of a new one brings the
gift-giving season in many parts of the world. It seems an appropriate
time to look at names for taxa with etymologies meant to honor a
person--as kind of gift of scientific posterity.
Naming a new taxon in honor of a person can show appreciation or give
recognition, typically by incorporating part of the person's proper
name into the generic or into the specific name. Binomial
nomenclature's founder Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), however, notoriously
named bad-smelling weeds after researchers who criticized his methods
in botany, such as Sigesbeckia [Siegesbeckia] for the German botanist
Johann Siegesbeck (1686-1755). (Fossils have no odor, of course.)
Two recent examples of the practice of honoring with names in the
traditional positive form include:
Garjainia madiba Gower, Hancox, Botha-Brink, Sennikov & Butler (2014)
Triassic Archosauriform from South Africa
"Named in honour of Nelson Mandela (1918–2013), the first fully
representatively democratically elected president of South Africa
(1994–1999). Mr Mandela was known affectionately as “Madiba”.The
specific epithet is considered a noun in apposition."
Iteravis huchzermeyeri Zhou, O'Connor & Wang (2014)
Cretaceous bird from China
"The name Iteravis (Latin iter—meaning journey, avis—meaning bird)
huchzermeyeri meaning Huchzermeyer’s journey bird is in honor of the
late archosaur biologist, Dr. Fritz Huchzermeyer, and his endless
quest for knowledge."
But first a side note...
The best way to pronounce scientific names in English could be a topic
of endless debate. Names based on non-Latin proper names are a
particular point of contention. One method is to try to retain or
approximate the original pronunciation of the name in English. The
alternative approach would be treat the name as if it were Latinized
all the way through.
Case in point is the name Lambeosaurus Parks,1923
Jack Horner and others use the English pronunciation of Lambe as "lam"
(b and e silent):
But Colbert's Dinosaur Book + various dictionaries treat the name as
if it contained a Latinized form of Lambe as "Lambeus" (b and e
Note that the French spelling treats the "e" as a fully pronounced
acute accent é:
Lambéosaurus and lambéosaure
Maybe it's best to look on such variant pronunciations as a form of
free expression and avoid pronunciation police...
SPECIFIC NAMES IN HONOR OF PEOPLE
By far the most common way to honor people with the name of a taxon is
to create a specific name based on the name of the person(s) with a
Latin genitive ending added. In this case, the Latin genitive
corresponds to the possessive's in English. [Other meanings for the
Latin genitive include "of, from, belonging to, for." Other uses for
the Latin genitive in Neo-Latin nomenclature include indicating the
host animal or plant for a parasite or a predator, and geographic or
geological origin or natural habitat.)
The modern Neo-Latin genitive system recognized by the ICZN for
-i : masculine singular for a male
-orum : masculine (or mixed gender) plural (often for members of the
-ae : feminine singular for a female
-arum : feminine plural for multiple females
These endings are typically added to the end of the person's name as
spelled (but sometimes a final vowel is replaced).
An older alternative method was to first Latinize the name with a
Latin ending -ius or -ia, thus older genitives in -ii, -iae, -iorum,
Under ICZN rules such forms are to be retained as the original
spellings. But if a generic name ends up (through later synonymy) with
two distinct species that are spelled the same except for the endings
-i and -ii, the later published name has to be replaced as a homonym.
A now much less used method is the trickier "classical declension"
system, which adds the appropriate genitive ending (-ae, -i-, -is)
based on three main noun declensions in classical Latin to match the
spelling of the name.
Although the name of a man (Paul-Emile Botta), Botta has an "a" ending
that makes it a First Declension Noun in Latin, thus the specific name
Charina bottae (Blainville, 1835) for "Botta's rubber boa."
A name that ended in certain consonants would be treated as a Third
Declension Noun with an -is genitive:
Hannibal (genitive Hannibalis)
Tatouinea hannibalis Fanti, Cau, Hassine & Contessi, 2013
Adjectival Suffix Endings
Combinations with the Latin adjectival suffix -anus, -ana-, -anum ,
-ianus, -iana, -ianum (and more rarely -eanus, -eana, -eanum) "of (a
place, thing)," "pertaining to," "belonging to," "from" also have been
used in Neo-Latin zoological and botanical nomenclature as a way to
honor a person.
Dinohippus leidyanus (Osborn,1918) for Joseph Leidy (1823-1891),
Mixosaurus cornalianus (Bassani,1886) for Emilio Cornalia (1824-1882),
Italian naturalist, head of Milan Museum of Natural History
Mosasaurus copeanus Marsh, 1869
O.C. Marsh's choice of the specific name copeanus for Edward Drinker
Cope has been cited as a supposed disguised insult (i.e., Cope +
anus). However, Marsh and his contemporaries certainly would have
pronounced the "e" in copeanus (koh-pee-A-nus) after the example of
Latin words such as mediterraneanus, etc. Note as well the names
Myliobatis copeanus Clark, 1895 and Sagenodus copeanus Williston,
1899, which were meant to honor Cope in a straightforward way.
At the time, Marsh and Cope were still on collegial terms (soon to
sour). Reading an insult into Mosasaurus copeanus appears to be a
modern, after-the-fact over-interpretation of what would have been
perceived at the time as a perfectly legitimate way to form an
adjectival species name to honor someone. Of course, Marsh procured
the specimen that he named Mosasaurus copeanus by bribing Cope's
diggers, the beginning of an infamous feud that brought no good to
Name or Noun in Apposition
Not that common and potentially confusing in a genus-species
combination if the name might be mistaken for the author of the
generic name rather than the species.
GENERIC NAMES IN HONOR OF PEOPLE
A more conspicuous way to honor a person is to form a generic name
using a proper name, either by adding a Latin ending to the person's
name or by combining the person's name with a Greek or Latin noun. For
Othnielia Galton, 1977 and Othnielosaurus Galton, 2007--dinosaurs
named in honor of Othniel Charles Marsh (1831-1899), who reportedly
hated the name "Othniel" and went by "O. C."
The Latin endings most commonly added to names are maculine -us, -ius;
feminine -a, -ia; neuter -um, -ium.
Less often used Latin and Greek endings include: -ellus, -ella,-
ellum: -etta; -inus, -ina, -inum; -iscus, -isca, -iscum; -anus, -ana,
-anum; -ianus, -iana, -ianum, etc.
When a person's name is combined with a Greek or Latin noun, or
sometimes an existing generic name, a connecting vowel "o" or "i" may
or may not be used.
A sampling of names shows the range of people that have been honored
in vertebrate paleontology:
Augustaburiania Sennikov, 2011 (Protorosauria) for the Czech
paleontologist Joseph Augusta (1903-1968) (writer) and Czech artist
Zdenek Burian (1905-1981), who produced an internationally famous
series of popular books on prehistoric animals and humans from the
1940s into the 1960s, and contributed to the popularity of
Chaliminia Bonaparte, 1980 (Therapsida) for Juan Chalimín, 17th
century chief who led a confederation of Indians in Argentina against
the Spanish in an uprising between 1630 and 1643 over Indian forced
Confuciusornis Hou, Zhou, Gu & Zhang, 1995 "Confucius' bird" (Aves)
for Confucius (551–479 BC), Latin name of Kong Fuzi, great thinker and
educator in Chinese history
free pdf download:
Gastornis Hébert, 1855 "Gaston's bird" (Aves) for Gaston Planté (1834
-1889), French inventor and fossil collector who found the first
Rauisuchus Huene, 1942 "Rau's crocodile" (Archosauria) for Dr. Wilhem
Rau (1874-1953), German medical doctor and fossil collector from Santa
Scipionyx dal Sasso & Signore, 1998 "Scipio's claw" (Theropoda) for
Scipione Breislak (1748-1826), 18th century geologist who wrote the
first described formation in which the fossil was found and Scipio
Africanus (236–183 BC), Roman consul who fought Hannibal.
Trollichthys Marramà & Carnevale (in press) "Troll's fish" (Clupeidae
) "In honour of the American artist Ray Troll in recognition of his
spectacular reconstructions of fossil fishes and other extinct and
Cope's Phony Roman Empire
Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) enjoyed a reputation for coining
unusual, euphonic, and clever names. A twist on names meant to honor
historical figures comes with Cope's repurposing of the classical
Latin names for major figures in Roman history for genera of living
and extinct animals. In fact, the names are not what they might appear
to be (dedicated to famous Romans) and instead are sly puns.
Tuditanus Cope, 1874 "mallet-like (head)" for the broad, flat shape of its head
Lepospondyli: Microsauria: Tuditanidae--Carboniferous--North America
Tuditanus was the name for an Ancient Roman family whose members had
notable roles in history.
"TUDITANUS, the name of a plebeian family of the Sempronia gens. The
name was supposed by Ateius the philologist to have been originally
given to one of the Sempronii, because he had a head like a *tudes*
(*tudit-is*) or mallet. (Festus, p. 352, ed. Müller.)"
Smith, W. 1870. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and
Mythology ( Volume 3).
In 1867 Cope used the eminent Roman name *Tuditanus* for a species of
a small living fish (in fact, a minnow) with a "broad flat head"
Hybopsis tuditanus Cope, 1867 [now Pimephales notatus (Rafinesque,
1820)] "bluntnose minnow"
Apparently wanting to give his clever pun a bit more prominence, Cope
then reused the name Tuditanus for a genus of fossil "Batrachian" from
the Carboniferous of Linton, Ohio.
Tuditanus Cope, 1874
Cope established the genus Tuditanus based on two species: T.
punctulatus (one specimen, now the holotype) and T. brevirostris (two
specimens) [= Diceratosaurus brevirostris]. He described the genus
Tuditanus as having: "Cranium broad, flat..."--the same feature that
presumably inspired the earlier species name Hybopsis tuditanus Cope,
Cope, E. D. 1875. Synopsis of the extinct Batrachia from the Coal
measures. Rept. Geol. Surv. Ohio, Paleont., vol. 2, pp. 350-411.
He later decided that Tuditanus was a reptile and placed it in his
order Cotylosauria (Cope 1896).
Hadrianus Cope, 1872 "bulky (tortoise)" (from Greek *hadros* "robust, bulky*)
Diapsida: Testudines : Testudinidae-- Eocene--North America
As spelled, Cope's genus looks like the name of the famous Roman
emperor Hadrian (Hadrianus in Latin form, reigned 117-138 AD), who
took the name Hadrianus from part of his family name, after the
village of Hadria (modern Atri in central Italy) in the Picenum region
of ancient Italy.
For info on Hadrian the Roman emperor:
However, Cope's name Hadrianus was clearly formed as a pun on the
completely unrelated Greek adjective *hadros* "robust, bulky"
(Hadrosaurus, Hadrohyus, etc.) by adding the Latin ending -ianus.
He first used the combination as a species name in the feminine form
"hadriana" in 1872:
Testudo hadriana. Cope, spec. nov.
".... This proves the existence of a very massive species of the
terrestrial genus Testudo."
Later the same year, based on additional fossils, Cope recognized a
new genus that he called Hadrianus, spelled in masculine form:
"It is perhaps the largest of our extinct land tortoises."
E. D. Cope. 1872. Second account of new Vertebrata from the Bridger
Eocene. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 12:466-468
Claudius Cope, 1865 "encloser" (from Latin *claudo* "enclose, lock up"
+ -ius) for a protective shell
The Roman emperor Claudius (reigned 41-54 AD) took his name from his
family the Claudii (gens Claudia), which has a disputed source. The
traditional story that emperor Claudius (who had a limp) was
personally so-named after the Latin verb*claudo* (or *claudeo*) "to
limp" was likely invented as a mocking pun in Roman times. In naming
the extant musk turtle Claudius, Cope almost certainly had in mind
another Latin verb spelled *claudo* but meaning "to lock up, enclose"
-- a turtle being an animal that has a protective bony shell.
Cope, E. D. Third Contribution to the Herpetology of Tropical America.
Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 17(4):
Some generic names may refer to people by translating the meanings of
their names into Greek or Latin rather than by using the name in its
original form. The winner for the all-time most elaborate honorific
vert-paleo pun-name must be Ennatosaurus tecton V'yushkov, 1956--
literally "ninth lizard carpenter."
Ennatosaurus tecton V'yushkov in Efremov, 1956
(from Greek *ennatos* "ninth" and Greek *tekton* "carpenter")
" ninth lizard carpenter " [ = (Tat'yana) Devyataya's lizard (&)
(Mikhail) Plotnikov's ]
Synapsida: Caseidae--Middle Permian--Russia
As explained in the original 1956 article in Russian, the binomen came
from Soviet paleontologist Boris Pavlovich V'yushkov [Vjushkov]
(1926-1958) in honor of the discoverers of the fossils--T. A.
Devyataya (feminine form of Russian *devyatyi* "ninth" (Greek
*ennatos*)) in the generic name and M. A. Plotnikov (after Russian
*plotnik* "carpenter" (Greek *tekton*)) in the specific name.
Mikhail Alekseevich Plotnikov (1899-1984) was a Soviet
geologist-paleontologist and Tat'yana A. Devyataya was his assistant
along the Pinega River in 1955 when they found the original type skull
and ribs of Ennatosaurus in a cliff of Permian sediments in a river
bank. They shipped the block of material to the Paleontological
Institute in Moscow for study, where paleontologists V'yushkov and
Ivan Antonovich Efremov [Yefremov] (1908-1972) examined the fossils.
Efremov's statement: "The caseid from Pinega [is] named by B. P.
V'yushkov Ennatosaurus tecton in honor of the discoverers of it T. A.
Devyataya and M. A. Plotnikov" [Kazeid s Pinegi nazvan B. P.
V'yushkovym Ennatosaurus tecton v chest' nashedshikh yego T. A.
Devyatoy i M. A. Plotnikova] indicates that the more correct full
citation for the author of the name should be Ennatosaurus V'yushkov
in Efremov, 1956. Olson in fact cited the name as Ennatosaurus
Vjushkov, 1956, but later authors have given the author as
Ennatosaurus Efremov, 1956. The English translation of Efremov's 1956
description of Ennatosaurus in Olson (1962) omitted the sentence that
mentioned V'yushkov and the etymology.
Efremov, I. A, 1956. American elements in the fauna of Permian
reptiles of the U.S.S.R. Dokl. Acad. Sci. U.S.S.R., Ill (no. 5), pp.
1091-1094. [in Russian]
Olson, Everett C. 1962. Late Permian Terrestrial Vertebrates, U.S.A.
and U.S.S.R. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,
Philadelphia 52(2): 1--224.
Hillary C. Maddin, Christian A. Sidor and Robert R. Reisz. 2008.
Cranial anatomy of Ennatosaurus tecton (Synapsida: Caseidae) from the
Middle Permian of Russia and the evolutionary relationships of
Caseidae. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 289(1): 160-180
A popular account of the discovery of Ennatosaurus and other Permian
vertebrates from the region of the Pinega River in Arkhangel'sk
appeared in 2011 in a short book in Russian by Anton Nelikhov with
illustrations by Andrey Atuchin, along with historical photos:
Nelikhov, A. E. 2011. Yashchery Pinegi [Saurians of Pinega]. D.B.
Nyzhnenko, Moscow. 30 pgs.
The section of the book about Plotnikov's and Devyataya's discovery of
Ennatosaurus and P. K. Chudinov's more extensive digs at the site,
which found more specimens, also appeared as an article in the Russian
magazine Okhotnichiy Dvor [Hunting Yard] 31(6) in June, 2011, viewable
Saurians of Pinega (Part 1)
For a gallery of Andrey Atuchin's evocative illustrations from the
book (click to expand), including Ennatosaurus, Cotylorhynchus,
Pedaeosaurus Colbert & Kitching, 1981
"shackle reptile" = "Shackleton Glacier reptile" thus named (in a
second-hand way) for the famous British Antarctic explorer Ernest
Synapsida: Baurioidea--Lower Triassic--Antarctica
"ETYMOLOGY: Pedae, from Greek pedai, meaning a shackle, in reference
to the Shackleton Glacier, near which the specimen was found: saurus,
from Greek sauros, meaning a lizard, or reptile."
E. H. Colbert and J. W. Kitching. 1981. Scaloposaurian reptiles from
the Triassic of Antarctica. American Museum Novitates 2709: 1-30
A. K. Huttenlocker and C. A. Sidor. 2012. Taxonomic revision of
therocephalians (Therapsida: Theriodontia) from the Lower Triassic of
Antarctica. American Museum Novitates 3738: 1-19
Bottosaurus Agassiz, 1849 "Botta's saurian"? for 19th century
naturalist and archaeologist Paul-Emile Botta?
Crocodylia : Crocodylidae--Late Cretaceous/Paleogene--North America
Louis Agassiz proposed the name Bottosaurus without explanation:
"Professor Agassiz made some remarks on the distinctions between the
fossil Crocodiles of the green sand of New Jersey, described by Drs.
Harlan and Morton, and characterized that of Dr. Harlan as a distinct
genus under the proposed name of Bottosaurus. "
Harlan, 1824. Extinct species of Crocodile. Journal. Acad. Nat. Sci.
Phila. IV, 1824, 15, pi. 1.
Leidy's 1865 description of Bottosaurus:
The spelling "bott-" is not found in classical Greek or Latin (apart
from the name Bottiae, an ancient province of Macedonia), but it
occurs in modern surnames such as Bott, Botta, Bottai, Botti, Botto,
Bottus. Agassiz likely named Bottosaurus for a person--the most
obvious candidate being the French-Italian naturalist, explorer, and
archaeologist Paul-Emile Botta (1802-1870) (son of Italian historian
Carlo Botta (1766–1837)). Botta collected plants and animals in
California and later in parts of the Middle East. Between 1843 and
1845, Botta gained international fame for discovering and excavating
an ancient Assyrian palace (claimed in error at the time to be the
Biblical city of Nineveh) in what is now Iraq. The sculptures and
other artifacts were taken to the Louvre in Paris.
Botanists and zoologists honored Botta for his discoveries in zoology
and botany with various specific names *bottae* given to plants,
reptiles, birds, mammals, and invertebrates from North America and
parts of the Middle East:
bat: Eptesicus bottae (Peters, 1869)(Botta's Serotine)
bird: Oenanthe bottae (Bonaparte, 1854) (Botta's Wheatear)
coral: Leptastrea bottae (Milne Edwards and Haime 1849)
rodent: Thomomys bottae (Eydoux & Gervais, 1836) (Botta's Pocket Gopher)
Agassiz also mentioned Botta's study of fish "ichthyoliths" from
Lebanon in Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles (Vol. 1) (pg. 41):
Aublysodon Leidy, 1868 "Aublys's tooth"??
Joseph Leidy's zoological names are by and large descriptive and make
sense. His combinations with Greek -odon or -odus "tooth" are all
derived from Greek, based on names of animals (Aelurodon "cat tooth";
Arctodus "bear tooth"; Hyracodon "hyrax tooth"; Merocoidodon
"ruminant-like tooth") or terms descriptive of the shape or nature of
the tooth (Phareodus "lighthouse tooth"; Turseodus "tower tooth";
Troodon "wounding tooth"; Palaeacodon "ancient point tooth"]--or for
location with Oreodon "mountain tooth" (said to be named for the Rocky
Leidy proposed the name Aublysodon in 1868 for certain "peculiar"
teeth that he had formerly included in the type material for Deinodon
Leidy, 1865 "terrible tooth" --but he offered no etymology or
explanation for the choice. The Deinodon + Aublysodon teeth were
originally found by Hayden at an unspecified spot along the Judith
River in what is now Montana, along with the type teeth for Troodon,
Palaeoscincus, and Trachodon.
Possible rediscovery of Hayden's location where the teeth were found in 1855:
Application for National Register of Historic Places status for
presumed Hayden site (with more details):
[Apparently this site in Fergus County has not been made an official
historic place at this point.]
The teeth dubbed Aublysodon had a distinctive shape with a rounded
front, cutting edges and denticles shifted to the sides, and the back
of the teeth flat or somewhat flattened--contrasting with the more
typical blade-like theropod teeth with fore and aft cutting edges.
Such D-shaped premaxillary teeth are distinctive to tyrannosaurids and
are now thought to have been specialized to scrape flesh off bone,
although Bob Bakker has suggested in public lectures that they were
used in mutual grooming of feathers.
Both Cope and Marsh later used the generic name Aublysodon without any
comment about its meaning or source--Marsh even added new species.
Their lack of comment might suggest that they both accepted the name
Aublysodon as formed in a normal way.
When I compiled a guide to dinosaur names in the early 1990s (later
posted on the Internet on the now defunct http://www.dinosauria.com
website), I tentatively tried to derive it from Greek--with a big
question mark. My least strained effort was to read that name as
something like "backward flowing tooth" as if from Greek *au*, "again"
but formerly defined incorrectly in older Greek lexicons as also
meaning "back, backward"--possibly combined with Greek *blys-*, a stem
form of the Greek verbs *blyo* or *blyzo* "to gush, spout" or from the
related Greek noun *blysis* "a gushing or bubbling up."
Ancient Greek had combinations with prefixes such as *diablyzo* "gush
forth," *epiblyo* "flow over," *anablysis* "bubbling up,"
*hyperblysis* "bubbling over"--but NOT *au* + *blyo* or *au*+ *blyzo*
or *au* + *blysis*. (The one Ancient Greek verb with *au* (*aueryo*
"pull back") is now thought to be an spelling error in ancient texts
for *an- + eryo*.) However, describing a tooth as flowing, gushing,
spouting, or bubbling backward is a very odd characterization, and I
noted my doubts.
Thanks to the huge expansion of data on the World Wide Web, I later
came across "Aublys" as a surname. For example, a family named Aublys
lived in Belgium and the name shows up in various online genealogies.
"Aubly" is much more common surname (also a female first name) that
presumably is derived from or related to the name Aublys.
If Leidy named Aublysodon in honor of someone named Aublys (or maybe
Aubly), the spelling of the name would be explained in a
straightforward way without resorting to a puzzling Greek formation
and meaning. The big mystery would be whom Leidy would have had in
mind. No one named either Aublys or Aubly shows up as an author in
19th century sources that I have found so far, neither in science nor
in medicine. There are no species named "aublysi" or "aublyi" or
"aublysae" in biology.
For now, the source of "Aublys-" in Leidy's Aublysodon still appears
to be an unsolved mystery, but it seems a bit more likely to me at
this point that it comes from a proper name of a still unknown person
(named Aublys or Aubly) than from a very odd combination of Greek