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Too many dinosaur names

Photos by Don Batten

Apatosaurus and Diplodocus skulls

Skulls given different genus names Apatosaurus (top) and Diplodocus (bottom) which are clearly the same biblical kind.

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Published: 15 January 2009(GMT+10)

A recent analysis of the 1,401 scientific names given to dinosaurs from 1824 to 2004 shows that about 16% of names were duplicates, and 32% embodied other sorts of errors.1,2,3

‘It’s a bit scary,’ said paleontologist Michael Benton of the University of Bristol (UK). ‘The bane of the dinosaurologist’s life is species that have been named on the basis of incomplete specimens.’4

It also seems that some fossils might have been claimed as new dinosaur species because of funding agency and journal pressures, and the ‘quest for glory’ or ‘a lust for headlines’ on the part of the discoverer.

‘In Victorian times, palaeontologists were keen to name new species, and in the excitement of the great “bone wars” for example, from 1870 to 1890, they rushed into print with new names for every odd leg bone, tooth, or skull cap that came their way,’ explained Benton. ‘Later work, on more complete specimens, reduced more than 1,000 named dinosaurs to 500 or so.’

And Noah didn’t need to take those hundreds of named dinosaur species aboard the Ark; rather, just the representative ‘kinds’ (Genesis 6:20)—of which it has been estimated there were only 55. For example, Apatosaurus and Diplodocus [skulls pictured above], though different species (in fact, genera), are clearly the same biblical kind. So skeptics who claim Noah couldn’t have fitted all the dinosaurs on board the Ark are wrong—note, too, that he didn’t need to take full-grown dinosaurs, but juveniles. For more on this see Chapter 19 (‘What about dinosaurs?’) in The Creation Answers Book, also see Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s article about dinosaur growth rates.

some fossils might have been claimed as new dinosaur species because of funding agency and journal pressures, and the ‘quest for glory’ or ‘a lust for headlines’ on the part of the discoverer

These recent findings have implications for scientific recommendations concerning species protection programs, too, as Benton points out. ‘This is important also for studies of modern biodiversity,’ he says. ‘People have also been looking at our current knowledge of mammals and insects and other animal groups and asking the simple question: are the species totals and lists we use for important conclusions—including to give political advice about endangered species—are they correct?’

Benton continues, ‘There’s been a big debate about vast extinctions among amphibians. We have to know what the species are first, before we can talk about that.’

References

  1. Dalton, R., In search of Thingummyjigosaurus—There are errors in almost half the names given to dinosaurs, NatureNews, <www.nature.com/news/2008/080917/full/
    news.2008.1111.html>, 17 September 2008. Return to text.
  2. Benton, M., Fossil quality and naming dinosaurs, Biology Letters, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0402, 16 September 2008. Return to text.
  3. Benton, M., How to find a dinosaur, and the role of synonymy in biodiversity studies, Paleobiology 34(4):516–533, December 2008. Return to text.
  4. Amos, J., Will the real dinosaurs stand up? BBC News, <news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7620621.stm>, 17 September 2008. Return to text.

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