Thursday, October 16, 2014

Species that don't get enough publicity #9: Rajasaurus narmadensis and the Lameta Formation

With the passing of the one-year anniversary, I’m going to return to my peak output.  I’ve been distracted, but now I’m back.  So today, we’re going to feature another dinosaur.  This one’s a fairly recent one, but part of an interesting story in both its history as an animal and its history in paleontology. 

Everyone loves the big scary dinosaurs. When William Buckland was given a big jaw with a serrated, curved tooth from Stonesfield quarry in  1815, he was fascinated by it, and thanks to the ferocious reconstruction by Benjamin Hawkins it became an icon of antiquity. Cope’s Dryptosaurus in 1866 and Marsh’s Allosaurus 1877 brought dragons back to life. The apex came with the legendary Tyrannosaurus of 1905.  People like their animals big, scary, and extinct, and Tyrannosaurus is the epitome of all this.

So I’m not going to talk about Tyrannosaurus, but a contemporary. This one’s been only described fairly recently, but its story is intertwined with mysterious bones found in 1932. This is the story of Rajasaurus, but it’s also a story of the Lameta Formation near the Narmada River next to Jabalpur in Madya Pradesh.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Top Twelve Worst Name Changes for prehistoric taxa.

Sometimes animals get very evocative names in scientific description. Tyrannosaurus the tyrant, Hyaenodon the Hyena tooth, Stegosaurus the roofed, Styracosaurus the spiked, Megalosaurus and Megatherium, the big animals. Sadly, not all such names survive. The rule of priority is vital here; if we could arbitrarily change the names of taxa, it’d be a mess. Paleontological taxonomy is complicated and deceptive enough that many animals are given different names by different people, or assumed to be a new species when they aren’t. Sadly, this happens all too often, and many classic, evocative names are cast aside for more generic (pardon the pun), dull names.