15 October 2007

But, how many London bus lengths is it?” – J.O.

Here’s the BBC on Futalognkosaurus dukei a recently described, absurdly large Titanosaur from Argentina:

Calvo, JO et al. 2007 “A new Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystem from Gondwana with the description of a new sauropod dinosaur” Anais Academia Brasileira Ciencia, 79(3): 529-41.

The name means something like “giant chief lizard…brought to you by Duke Energy.” The genus name comes from Mapudungun, the indigenous South American language that also gave us Mapusaurus, yet another example of the trend to defer to local linguistic traditions when christening (linnaeusing?) a new fossil taxon.

The species name is an example of somewhat older tradition of naming fossils for financial patrons. There’s at least one other dinosaur with a corporate name Atlascopcosaurus and there may well be others. In the 19th century it was quite common to name fossils after wealthy benafactors, as seen in Futalognkosaurus‘ distant cousin Diplodocus carnegiei.

Sauropodophile Matt Wedel recently blogged about the auctioning off scientific names to the highest bidder. Perhaps he’ll weigh in on the titanosaur, if we’re lucky.

Masikasaurus knopfleri is the only dinosaur I know of that’s named after a rock star. Each of the Sex Pistols have an Articalymene trilobite named after them, and just to keep things balanced each Ramone has a Mackenziurus trilobite (I don’t know if this is the work of the same equi-continental punk rock paleontologist or not). Frank’s got a fossil snail: Amaurotoma zappa as well as an extant jellyfish, spider and an entire genus of fish.

Trust me, Markesmithosaurus is just a few years away. Wait, make that Markesmithoraptor!

Oh yeah, and Futalognkosaurus was almost certainly arboreal.

8 Responses to “105-Footlongosaurus”

  1. Zach Miller Says:

    Possibly one of the worst names EVER. Usually I can work out the pronunciations, but Spanish trumps me every time.

  2. Neil Says:

    If it were Spanish I might have a shot, but I only took one semester of Mapudungun in high school and I skipped a lot….

  3. Amanda Says:

    Quetzelcoatlus northropi…named after Northrop Grumman. One of the articles misprinted and wrote 105 feet tall, instead of long. Now that would have been a contender for the largest land animal ever…

  4. Neil Says:

    We’ll I’m sure it stood on it’s hind legs like AMNH’s Barosaurus and perhaps it occasionally balanced on the tip of its tail..so maybe it really was 105 feet tall!

    Do you know if Quetzo was named to honor of corporate sponsorship or because it looked like something that could have built by Northrop. Given the oft-made comparison perhaps it should be Quetzacoatlus cessnae (hint hint to anyone sitting on an undescribed giant pterosaur fossil…)

  5. I’ve put a link to this post up at Linnaeus’ Legacy.

  6. […] let me dust off the old cultural studies head-dress and discuss something that I have mentioned before: the introgression of ‘non-western’ cultural traditions into paleontological […]

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