Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dinosaur Names: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

One thing dinosaurs don't have are common names.  I mentioned in an earlier post how for some reason prehistoric animals tend to only be referred to by their scientific names.  While this makes it less confusing when talking about them in a scientific setting, it can be frustrating as well since some of these names can be quite long or obscure.  The names of dinosaurs can mean different things.  Some can be a physical description of the animal.  Triceratops, for example translates to "three horned face".  Others, however, aren't always as straightforward.  Today I want to share with you my list of dinosaur (and other prehistoric animal) names that I find the coolest, the stupidest and just downright scariest.  I just want to clarify that the names i am about to tell you about are the official names given to real animals.  I did not make these up. 

"Dragon King of Hogwarts" - Dracorex hogwartsia

Dracorex skull
Translates to "Dragon King of Hogwarts".  Yes, Hogwarts as in the wizard school from the Harry Potter franchise.  This dinosaur was found in what is now South Dakota, USA.  It is named because of the horns on its head give it the appearance of what mythical dragons tend to look like...which exist in the Harry Potter universe (Maybe they should have named it Norbert?).  Its related to the larger Pachycephalosaurus. In fact, one paleontologist is convinced Dracorex is merely a juvenile of Pacycephalosaurus.  Of this I myself am unsure of but either way, Dracorex looks cool and has a cool name.

Dracorex hogwartsia life reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza

"Medusa-Horned Face Loki" - Medusaceratops lokii

Medusaceratops skeletal mount
Translates to "Medusa Horned Face Loki".  This relative of Styracosaurus was discovered in what is now Montana, USA and has a horn arrangement that is curvy and somewhat twisty looking, thus reminding us of Medusa from Greek Mythology, who had snakes for hair.  The species name, "lokii" is in reference to the the Norse god of trickery, because this dinosaur's bones were so difficult to identify at first.  Coincidentally, the MARVEL supervillain, Loki (based on the Norse god) happens to have long, curved horns on his helmet! 

Loki from the Avengers movieCheck out the helmet.

"Devil-Horned Face" - Diabloceratops eatoni

Diabloceratops skull
Translates to "Devil Horned Face Eaton".  This relative of Styracosaurus lived in what is now Utah, USA.  Its called "devil horn" because of its two, upwards curved horns over each eye.  It also had two curved horns on its frill.  Its species name is in honor of paleontologist, Jeffery Eaton. 

Hellboy.  I can see the inspiration. 

"Kosmos-Horned Face" - Kosmoceratops richardsoni

Kosmoceratops skull
Translates to "Kosmos Horned Face Richardson".  This another ceratopsid dinosaur from Utah.  Its named because its horn arrangement is crazy...crazy enough to look like its from space!  The species name is in honor of Scott Richardson, the man who found the first specimen of this animal.


"Mojo-Horned Face with Pride" Mojoceratops perifania

Mojoceratops skull
Translates to "Magic Horned Face with Pride".  This dinosaur is closely related to Chasmosaurus.  So much so that the two were actually believed to be the same animal until 2010 and thus,  the name Mojoceratops was thought up.  The term "mojo" is in reference to the animal's heart-shaped frill which may have been used for sexual display when the animal was alive (much like a male peacock's tail or iguana's dewlap).  An actual mojo is a sort of charm or talisman that is believed to give the holder the ability to attract the opposite sex (in the early 1900s mostly).  The species name, "perifania" is Greek for "pride" furthering the point that this animal may have flaunted what its mama gave it (the frill) when it was alive.

From left: Medusaceratops, Diabloceratops, Kosmoceratops and Mojoceratops.  Life restoration by Christopher DiPiazza.

"Irritating Challenge" - Irritator challengeri

Back part of Irritator skull
Translates"Irritating Challenger".  (Don't you just love how they put a vowel at the end of an English word to make it flow better?)  This dinosaur is known from a skull that was found by fossil poachers and then sold illegally.  When in their possession they stupidly messed with it, trying to alter its appearance by attaching other pieces of rock to it to make it look cooler and more valuable in order to get more money out of it before it was luckily eventually taken away and given to real scientists to study.  Well the scientists (being professionals and all) immediately knew the specimen had be tampered with and had to undergo the long irritating process of undoing the mess before even beginning to prep the actual fossil itself.  Thus the name.  Ironic part is, it turned out to be a new species and was more valuable without the artificial addition.  The dinosaur lived in what is now Brazil and is related to the more famous, Spinosaurus

"Human Scrotum" - Scrotum humanum
Must admit it does look like a scrotum.

Translates to...yup, you guessed it!  "Human Scrotum".  In the seventeen hundreds a single bone fragment was discovered in England.  Just imagine being the scientist who's job it was to name it.  "Wow!  look at this bone!  Its from a dinosaur!  I can name it whatever I want!  Ha, when I squint it sort of resembles guy's ball sack.  Bingo!"  Luckily this bone piece was later found to belong to a dinosaur that had already been discovered, Megalosaurus, and the scrotum name was thrown out.  Sorry perverts!


"American Breast Tooth" - Mastodon americanum

This one most people are familiar with.  Mastodon isn't a dinosaur but rather a kind of extinct elephant that actually lived right here in New Jersey amongst other places not that long ago (roughly 11 thousand years ago during the late Pleistocene).  Well, have you ever wondered what Mastodon really means?  Breast tooth.  That's what.

American Mastodon watercolor by Christopher DiPiazza.

 Again, I wonder what the scientists were thinking when they uncovered this amazing beast and ultimately settled on naming it what they did because the teeth sort of look like a pair of boobs.  I don't know what the women looked like back in the seventeen hundreds but those teeth sure don't look like breasts to me.
Sorry I just don't see it. 

After learning this information I can never nostalgically watch the first season of Power Rangers the same way ever again.

Morphin time!  BOOB TOOTH!

Works Cited

 Agusti, Jordi and Mauricio Anton (2002). Mammoths, Sabretooths, and Hominids. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 106. ISBN 0-231-11640-3.

 Bakker, R. T., Sullivan, R. M., Porter, V., Larson, P. and Saulsbury, S.J. (2006). "Dracorex hogwartsia, n. gen., n. sp., a spiked, flat-headed pachycephalosaurid dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota." in Lucas, S. G. and Sullivan, R. M., eds., Late Cretaceous vertebrates from the Western Interior. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 35, pp. 331–345.

 Halstead, L.B. (1970). "Scrotum humanum Brookes 1763 - the first named dinosaur." Journal of Insignificant Research, 5: 14–15.

 Kirkland, J.I. and DeBlieux, D.D. (2010). "New basal centrosaurine ceratopsian skulls from the Wahweap Formation (Middle Campanian), Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, southern Utah", In: Ryan, M.J., Chinnery-Allgeier, B.J., and Eberth, D.A. (eds.) New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, pp. 117–140

 Martill, D. M.; Cruickshank, A. R. I.; Frey, E.; Small, P. G.; Clarke, M. (1996). "A new crested maniraptoran dinosaur from the Santana Formation (Lower Cretaceous) of Brazil". Journal of the Geological Society 153: 5. doi:10.1144/gsjgs.153.1.0005

"Mojoceratops: New Dinosaur Species Named for Flamboyant Frill." Yale News. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.

 Nicholas R. Longrich (2010). "Mojoceratops perifania, A New Chasmosaurine Ceratopsid from the Late Campanian of Western Canada". Journal of Paleontology 84 (4): 681–694. doi:10.1666/09-114.1

 Scott D. Sampson, Mark A. Loewen, Andrew A. Farke, Eric M. Roberts, Catherine A. Forster, Joshua A. Smith, Alan L. Titus (2010). Stepanova, Anna. ed. "New Horned Dinosaurs from Utah Provide Evidence for Intracontinental Dinosaur Endemism". PLoS ONE 5 (9): e12292. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012292. PMC 2929175. PMID 20877459

 Ryan, Michael J.; Russell, Anthony P., and Hartman, Scott. (2010). "A New Chasmosaurine Ceratopsid from the Judith River Formation, Montana", In: Michael J. Ryan, Brenda J. Chinnery-Allgeier, and David A. Eberth (eds), New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium, Indiana University Press, 656 pp. ISBN 0-253-35358-0


  1. Hahahahah, wonder how the founder came up with those names. Anyway good post. if you have time perhaps you might want to visit my ugly blog?

    Thanks for the post, it lightens my day.