Tyrannosaurus rex Name

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Tyrannosaurus Rex Name

The first fossils of Tyrannosaurus rex were found in 1874 by Arthur Lakes, in the 1890s by John Bell Hatcher, and in by Edward Drinker Cope.

Edward Drinker Cope:
Edward Drinker Cope

It was unclear each of these fossils belonged to the same animal, for example Hatcher's fossils were incorrectly thought to come from an Ornithomimus, whereas Cope thought he had found a new animal, which he named Manospondylus gigas. Note: It is more than a century before it is realized that Manospondylus gigas is the same animal as Tyrannosaurus rex.

Manospondylus vertebra:
Manospondylus vertebra

In 1900, Barnum Brown found the first of five Tyrannosaurus rex skeletions which he was to find in his career. This 1900 specimen was mixed with Ankylosaurus osteoderms (presumably its last meal), although this was not realized at the time.

Barnum Brown:
Barnum Brown

In 1902, Barnum Brown found a second Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in the in the Hell Creek formation in Montana.

In 1905, Henry Fairfield Osborn described and named Brown's two skeletons in a scientific paper. He named the 1902 find as Tyrannosaurus rex, but wrongly believing the 1900 find to be an armored theropod, he named as Dynamosaurus imperiosus.

Henry Fairfield Osborn:
Henry Fairfield Osborn

Just one year later, in 1906 realized his mistake, and that Dynamosaurus imperiosus was the same animal as Tyrannosaurus rex. The name Tyrannosaurus rex was adopted as the standard, since it appeared first in a scientific paper.

The normal rules International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) state that the first name used in scientific literature generally has priority, so according to this principal, you might expect Tyrannosaurus rex to be correctly called Manospondylus gigas, however "Tyrannosaurus rex" is generally used, and will likely continue because the rules state allow some otherwise "incorrect" names to be continue to be used as "protected names" (nomen protectum). More specifically the rules state that "the prevailing usage must be maintained" when "the senior synonym or homonym has not been used as a valid name after 1899" and "the junior synonym or homonym has been used for a particular taxon, as its presumed valid name, in at least 25 works, published by at least 10 authors in the immediately preceding 50 years".

Scientists classify living things, including animals, using a hierarchical system of names. The lowest two levels in this system are the Genus (which refers to a closely related group of animals), and the Species (animals so closely related that they can breed and produce fertile offspring). The Genus and Species are often used in combination to identify a particular animal (this is known as the "Scientific Name" or "Binomen") of the animal. This system of naming animals is known as "Binomial nomenclature".

The Tyrannosaurus rex name chosen by Henry Fairfield Osborn means:
  • For the Genus, Osborn chose "Tyrannosaurus", from the Ancient Greek words "tyrannos" (tyrant) and "sauros" (lizard) - hence Tyrannosaurus means "tyrant lizard"

  • For the Species, he chose "rex", from the Latin Word "rex", which means "king".

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