Ben Creisler <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Troodon formosus nomen dubium?
Things aren't looking good for _Troodon_. It's likely heading the
same way as _Deinodon_ and _Ceratops_ (two nomina dubia also from the
Judith River Formation).
The authors (van der Reest and Currie) come very close to declaring
_Troodon formosus_ a nomen dubium... but don't quite do it.
Nevertheless, they concur with the findings of recent studies (e.g.,
Zanno et al. 2011; Larson and Currie, 2013 - both cited) that the
teeth are not distinguishable (diagnostic) at genus level for a number
of troodontids, including _Troodon formosus_. Therefore, because the
holotype includes only teeth, _T. formosus_ would technically be a
But the authors provide some hope for _T. formosus_, if future
material from the same formation and locality can be referred to this
"Although the validity of _Troodon formosus_ may be contentious,
future discoveries may provide the osteological information required
to sort out true relationships in North American troodontids. For any
specimens that are positively identified as _Troodon formosus_,
however, they must originate from the Judith River Formation in the
region from where the holotype was recovered."
Maybe. The implication is that new diagnostic material could be
referred to _T. formosus_ to keep it alive as a valid taxon. But it's
not that simple. Even if troodontid material is recovered from the
JRF that includes diagnostic bones along with teeth that match _T.
formosus_, it may not be enough to save _T. formosus_. A neotype
would probably have to be designated for _T. formosus_ based on this
new (topotypic?) material. This could happen, but there's no
guarantee it will (even if potentially referrable material is
A similar situation came up for _Ceratops montanus_, another
time-honored taxon named from non-diagnostic material. The only hope
of keeping _C. montanus_ alive as a valid genus and species is based
on new/referred material. The best chance was the diagnostic
chasmosaurine specimen CMN 57081 from the JRF, which matched the _C.
montanus_ type material both osteologically and stratigraphically.
The study that described this material (Mallon et al. 2016
0154218) actually stated "It is possible -
even likely, given their close stratigraphic and geological
association - that '_Ceratops_' and CMN 57081 are the same species".
However, they went on to say "without conclusive evidence for such, it
is preferable to erect a new species for CMN 57081." So CMN 57081 was
granted its own genus and species _(Spiclypeus shipporum_), rather
than being referred to _Ceratops montanus_. I reckon the same thing
could happen if a diagnostic JRF troodontid specimen was discovered in
the vicinity of the _T. formosus_ type locality. Unless a neotype was
nominated (and approved), there would always be doubts over whether it
should be referred to _T. formosus_.
Objectively, there's no good reason *not* to treat _Troodon_ any
differently from _Deinodon_ or _Ceratops_. Alas, _Troodon_ is a
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Email: email@example.com Phone: 301-405-4084
Principal Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
Office: Geology 4106, 8000 Regents Dr., College Park MD 20742
Dept. of Geology, University of Maryland
Faculty Director, Science & Global Change Program, College Park Scholars
Office: Centreville 1216, 4243 Valley Dr., College Park MD 20742
Mailing Address: Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Department of Geology
Building 237, Room 1117
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College Park, MD 20742-4211 USA