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Re: [dinosaur] Vesperopterylus, new anurognathid from Cretaceous of China, with evidence of perching behavior (corrected) (free pdf)

Ben Creisler <bcreisler@gmail.com> wrote:

> A corrected version of the paper. Only the first part of the name was changed 
> ("versper" to "vesper"). The "pteryl" part was left as-is. As I discussed in 
> a posting, the spelling "pterylus" meets ICZN requirements to be interpreted
> as a Latin nominative singular ending. Possible sources could be a rare Greek 
> diminutive suffix  -ylos (as in Greek *arktylos* "bear cub"), or from Greek 
> *hyle* "forest" (as in Greek *polyylos* "abundant in forests"), or perhaps
> short for *hylobios* "forest-living."

These suggestions are all impressive, and eminently plausible.  I
initially interpreted the 'pterylus' part of _Vesperopterylus_ as
making some sort of connection with the pterylae of birds.  Or, like
you, that 'pterylus' was a diminutive version of wing (though my first
thought was the common Latin diminutive suffix -ulus).  Or (least
plausibly) that 'pterylus' was some arbitrary contraction of
'pterodactylus'.  Nonetheless the authors make it clear that they
believe 'pteryl' to mean "wing" (and also regard it as Latin, not
Greek).  So in the end, I think 'pterylus' is just a flub by the
authors.  Hey, at least they corrected the 'vesper' part of the name!

> The ICZN rules don't require that names be necessarily well formed according 
> to classical rules apart from the ending. A fair number of Neo-Latin 
> zoological names are formed in nonclassical ways, with abbreviated terms to
> shorten the spelling.

Yes, and this non-classical approach can produce some pretty neat
names, like _Archelon_ ("ruling turtle"), _Aptornis_ ("wingless
bird"), and _Spiclypeus_ ("spiky shield").  I had also assumed that
the thylacine (_Thylacinus_) fell into this category, and meant
"pouched dog" ('thylakos' + 'kyon').  But it turns out that the namer
(Temminck) simply meant 'pouched' when he came up with the genus
_Thylacinus_ - no connection with dogs (though he put this in the
species name, _cynocephalus_).  Nevertheless, fossil relatives of
_Thylacinus_ routinely feature the suffix '-cinus', which is given as
deriving from the Greek 'kyon' meaning "dog" (e.g., _Nimbacinus_,
_Wabulacinus_, _Ngamalacinus_, _Badjcinus_).  But apparently this
wasn't the intention for the archetypal genus _Thylacinus_.