Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Memo to Paleontologists: Knock it off!

First, you took away my Brontosaurus. Now you're after my Triceratops:
... according to research done by scientists at Montana's Museum of the Rockies, the familiar triceratops is really just the juvenile form of the more-elaborately be-frilled and be-horned torosaurus.
This extreme shape-shifting was possible because the bone tissue in the frill and horns stayed immature, spongy and riddled with blood vessels, never fully hardening into solid bone as happens in most animals during early adulthood. The only modern animal known to do anything similar is the cassowary, descended from the dinosaurs, which develops a large spongy crest when its skull is about 80 per cent fully grown.
How to put this gently? Almost all of you rely on the public to pay your salaries. The "Big 3" dinosaurs are (were?) Brontosaurus, Tricerators, and T. Rex. One's gone, and one's on the Endangered Species List. Keep this up, and your paycheck will join them.


Hat Tip: A Large Regular.


wolfwalker said...

Don't sweat it, Borepatch. The type specimen of Triceratops was discovered and written up a couple of years before that of Torosaurus. By the rules of nomenclature, "Triceratops" takes priority. If the two genera are combined, then the resulting genus will still be called Triceratops.

wolfwalker said...

Oh, and an obscure bit of dinotrivia: we came close to never knowing Tyrannosaurus rex at all. H.F. Osborn described it in a 1905 paper along with a second theropod. A few months later he realized that the two skeletons were the same animal, and used his power as First Revisor to choose T. rex as the valid name. Had he decided the other way, the animal would have been known forever after as Dynamosaurus imperiosus.

(hmmm, 'tyrant lizard king', 'powerful imperial lizard' .. one wonders to what extent zoological naming is touched by the namer's political/social beliefs...)

NotClauswitz said...

I have seen a two-wattled cassowary from the Wamar and Kabrroor Islands at the Calcutta Zoo. A strange, powerful and dangerous but shy beast

Tam said...


It's T. latus that's making the go-aways. Everybody's favorite, T. Horridus has... er, seniority. Oddly enough, as it turns out.