Stokesosaurus – Named after an American Palaeontologist (not after Stoke-on-Trent)

The naming and describing of a prehistoric animal, is often the highlight of a scientists career.  However, it can be very difficult to name an animal, especially if the description and scientific analysis is based on only fragmentary remains.  Often with the discovery of more fossils, the description has to be revised, although it is scientific etiquette to retain the original name if possible although junior and senior synonyms frequently come into play.  In taxonomic classification, a synonym is another name given for an organism.  The earliest of several names given to an animal is considered to be the senior synonym, whilst later names given to an animal are considered to be junior synonyms.

For example, Apatosaurus from the Morrison Formation of the Western United States is the senior synonym for the name Brontosaurus.  Although Brontosaurus may be the better known name, it is Apatosaurus that predates the name of Brontosaurus for the same animal so it is Apatosaurus that takes the precedence.

An Illustration of Apatosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Apatosaurus was a heavily built Diplodocid, of the Late Jurassic, weighing in at an estimated 30 Tonnes and about as long as a regulation tennis court (78 feet).

One of the lesser known meat-eating dinosaurs from the Morrison Formation is Stokesosaurus.  This particular Theropod dinosaur, has been regarded as one of the most primitive members of the Tyrannosaur group, indicating that Tyrannosaurs evolved in the late Jurassic.  This dinosaur is known from only a few fragmentary remains,  a partial hip bone, elements of the jaw and brain-case.  Some of these bones resemble Tyrannosaur hence the connection between this dinosaur and the better known Tyrannosaurs.  Although fossils of a very similar dinosaur have been found in England, this dinosaur was not named after Stoke-on-Trent, the urban area in Staffordshire.  Stokesosaurus was named in honour of Lee Stokes, an American palaeontologist.

The fossils of this particular dinosaur are very poorly preserved and although Tyrannosaur features have been identified within these fossils, verifying that this is one of the earliest members of the Tyrannosaur group is a difficult task due to the lack of fossils for this particular dinosaur.

It is unlikely that we will be announcing any dinosaur toys and games based on this particular dinosaur, especially as the English fossils may represent the same animal although this dinosaur is named Lliosuchus.  The English remains were named before the naming of Stokesosaurus, so Stokesosaurus may be the junior synonym of Lliosuchus.

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