Time to rebrand the stegosaur?

COULD stegosaurus go the way of its beleaguered cousin, brontosaurus? Early last century, the big friendly giant of the Jurassic was stripped of its iconic name due to the obscure protocols of nomenclature. Now stegosaurs are in for a grilling.

Peter Galton, a curatorial affiliate at Yale University’s Peabody Museum, says the first stegosaur to be named, known as the “type” specimen, is too incomplete to compare with other fossils (Swiss Journal of Geosciences, DOI: 10.1007/s00015-010-0022-4). According to the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), that invalidates the genus name.

Both dinosaurs owe the upheaval over their names to the so-called “bone wars”, a bitter feud between two 19th-century palaeontologists. Arch-rivals Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Cope raced each other to find and describe the most fossils possible. In their haste, both dashed off hundreds of papers describing and naming fragmentary fossils.

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