Monday, August 30, 2010

Don't name dinosaurs if you're an idiot

Mojoceratops is a bit of a gaudy name, but ... he was named after a round of drinks, confesses the paleontologist who discovered the new species while digging through the drawers in the museum basement, rather than from out in the field.
[Look at that face! Maybe PhantomOfTheOperatops instead? Get this guy an organ.]

When Nicholas Longrich stumbled upon a fossilized fragment from a previously unknown dinosaur genus in the basement of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, he rejected the traditions that usually govern dinosaur nomenclature.

Instead, over a round of drinks with fellow paleontologists, Mr. Longrich struck upon, almost out of thin air, a name that would end up bringing him more publicity than any of his other discoveries: Mojoceratops.

Although the initial inspiration for the name was not based on any real rationale, Mr. Longrich said, his later investigation into the etymology of the word “mojo” — a term for magical charm, especially that used to attract sexual partners — provided some justification for the choice.

“That’s what I think these frills were for, probably impressing mates,” said Mr. Longrich, whose finding was published this week in the Journal of Paleontology. “It actually worked out as not being completely irrational.”

This name is pretty stupid, but at least there's a 'neat' story behind it, rather than just some ridiculous Latin translation. While not Cupid-ceratops? This is basically the same thing. Even if I were drunk, I'd name this thing some more cool than a tired trendy expression from the 70s that was briefly brought back by the Austin Powers trilogy.

Triceratops turnaround?

I don't know how much you care about the Torosaurus - but some palaeontlogists have begun to investigate whether or not some ceratopsians are actually just juvenile or mature versions of other ceratopsians, and not necessarily new species. While I'm for this - I'm not sure that I would agree that Triceratops and Torosaurus are the same species. Torosaurus had a great big frill around its neck, BUT it had huge holes in its frill - while Triceratops is famous for having a huge, hole-less frill. Why would all of that bone suddenly disintegrate into big holes? And if this happened, why wouldn't you find lots of skulls with solid bone frills and not just the holed kind? I'm not liking the argument - BUT that doesn't mean there shouldn't be an argument made and considered. This is how progress is made in science.

You can look for yourself.

I especially don't like how scientific articles will make it appear that this newly published article is the new world view on the matter. And it's like this with all scientific articles - you just hear about a new theory, and then suddenly everyone believes that it's the truth, as opposed to the beginning of a much longer process of challenging that theory and coming closer to a truth.

And I close with a link to: A Mammals Worst Nightmare. It's about hiding from dinosaurs, but with new evidence that they could get at you, even if you were hiding.

Extinction

This is an excellent article that just goes to show how very difficult it is to pin what killed off the dinosaurs - though it makes some very strong observations. Most interesting is that the mass extinctions that have existed on our Earth for almost a billion years can be expected every 27 million years, "like clockwork," according to the article. Though they don't know what it is that happens every 27 millions years that causes this reaction.


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