Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Ask Me About My T-Rex"- Whats in a name?

I keep seeing this shirt all over the internet although I have yet to see any hipsters in person actually wearing it.  Its pretty funny check it out.  There are a few other versions of it out there like a zombie one and even a weeping angel from Doctor Who! 

Cool shirt.  But the nit-picking nerd in me has two problems with this.  First off is the model's hands.  I have mentioned before theropods like Tyrannosaurus couldn't bend their wrists that way!  So if anyone reading this buys this shirt you now have no excuse for improper wrist posture! 

Second is their use of the term "T-rex".  "T-rex" is wrong.  The proper term is T. rex.  The full term, Tyrannosaurus rex is actually the full  two-part scientific name of the animal.  Tyrannosaurus is the genus and rex is the species.  Just like Canis familiaris is for a dog.  All known organisms have a two part scientific name.  Extinct animals rarely are given common names unlike most modern animals (dog, tiger, human...).  It just makes it easier to say the scientific name since its the same word all over the world, regardless of what language you speak.  For most dinosaurs, we just say their genus when talking casually.  Triceratops, for instance is actually Triceratops horridus or Triceratops prorsus (there are two species) when said fully.  For some reason Tyrannosaurus' species name is cool sounding (Go ahead say it out loud...rex.  Yeah its totally cool.) so we tend to say it fully for fun.  A lot of people have no clue what it really is that they are saying though.

So where did the term "T-rex" come from?  Often times, especially when writing a scientific paper, it can become tiresome to write a full genus and species name over and over again.  To deal with this, we can simply put the first letter of the genus (in this case T) with a period and then the species name for an abbreviated version. When applied this gives us T. rex.  Oh and in case you were wondering, scientific names should always be in italics.

So why do we always see T-rex and not T.rex?  Honestly I don't know.  Apparently somewhere along the line somebody decided that dashes were cooler than periods and therefore messed up everyone's writing of the most famous dinosaur of all time.  Yay for pop culture! 

The shirt itself can be bought here.  If you have this shirt (or any other dinosaur-theme apparel) take a photo of yourself wearing it and put it up on our facebook page