Nasicornis Name

Ceratosaurus   >   Name


Ceratosaurus Name

The first fossils of Ceratosaurus were discovered, described, and name in 1884 by the great dinosaur hunter, Othniel C. Marsh.

Othniel C. Marsh:
Othniel C. Marsh

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".

Othniel C. Marsh chose the name:
  • For the Genus, he chose "Ceratosaurus", from the Ancient Greek word "keratos" which means "horn", and from the Ancient Greek "sauros" which means "lizard". Thus Ceratosaurus means "horned lizard".

  • For the Species, Marsh chose "nasicornis" which also refers to the animal's nasal horn. This would have been an obvious choice, since Marsh would undoubtedly have been aware of "Bitis nasicornis" (a venomous viper with a nasal horn), and Oryctes nasicornis (the European rhinoceros beetle - males have a long curved horn on their head).
Since Marsh's identification of Ceratosaurus nasicornis, four other species of Ceratosaurus have been identified and named - Ceratosaurus dentisulcatus, Ceratosaurus ingens, Ceratosaurus magnicornis, and Ceratosaurus stechowi. However many scientists have expressed doubts about the validity of these identifications, and consider these names to be "nomen dubium", that is a scientific names that are of doubtful application (i.e. the specimens that they refer to, are believed not to be a species of Ceratosaurus).

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