September 2, 2013
A Dinosaur By Any Other Name – Looking At The T. Rex’s Original Moniker
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Tyrannosaurus rex is arguably the most famous of all the dinosaurs, but apparently the iconic creature was very nearly known by another name.
“When the first fossilized remains of the creature were found, the 29-foot carnivore was initially given a moniker that was rather more of a mouthful: Dynamosaurus imperiosus,” explained Richard Gray, Science Correspondent with The Telegraph. “The full story has emerged as the first remains have been removed from storage at the Natural History Museum in London, where they are about to go on show for the first time in decades.”
The first partial skeleton of what we now know as the T. rex was reportedly recovered by Barnum Brown, assistant curator of the American Museum of Natural History, in Wyoming in 1905. The museum’s dinosaur expert, Henry Fairfield Osborn, actually gave the dinosaur its original name in the same paper which the T. rex was first described in. In fact, the two creatures were discussed just a few pages apart from one another.
Osborn eventually realized the two skeletons actually belonged to the same creature, and that the mistake was due in part to fossils from the Dynamosaurus skeleton becoming intermingled with the remains of a second dinosaur. He decided to drop the Dynamosaurus name and called the carnivorous creature Tyrannosaurus rex, since that had been the name given to the more complete of the two skeletons, The Telegraph said.
The name D. imperiosus was a combination of Latin and ancient Greek and meant “dynamic imperial reptile,” Gray said. The second specimen, which was located by Brown two years later in Montana, was dubbed T. rex – also a combination of Greek and Latin, and a name which means “terrible lizard king.” Typically, the first specimen discovered is the one which determines the name for the species, but due to “a publishing quirk,” the paper describing the T. rex skeleton actually appeared first, making that the official name, he added.
On an interesting note, the original Dynamosaurus material is now residing at London's Natural History Museum, making it the only T. rex fossil to exist outside of the United States, according to Gray. It had been acquired by the museum in the 1960s.
“This was the first ever T. rex found, which makes it very important historically. Up until that point we only had a few fragments of big carnivorous predators from that time and it gave us our first insight into what they looked like,” Dr. Paul Barrett, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum, told Gray. As for the name change, he said, “It is perhaps just as well as although Dynamosaurus imperiosus is another grand sounding name, it doesn’t trip off the tongue as nicely as Tyrannosaurus rex.”