Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How Mimsy Was Zanabazar?

No, not the early Mongolian Buddhist leader.

Above: Not a troodontid.

Zanabazar is the newly-coined name for the troodontid previously known as Saurornithoides junior. A new review of the genus Saurornithoides by a heap of authors including Mark Norell and Rinchen Barsbold himself (who named S. junior in 1974) found that the evidence linking S. junior to S. mongoliensis as each others closest relatives is lacking, so a new genus name was needed for junior (I would have gone with "Henryjonesius" in honour of Sean Connery).
Above: Zanabazar junior by FunkMonk, licensed.

But wait a second... there's been talk for some time now that S. junior may be synonymous with another small troodont, a contemporary from the Nemegt Formation with one of my personal favourite dino-bird names, Borogovia (after one of the nonsense creatures in Lewis Caroll's poem Jabberwocky.) I haven't read the paper yet so I'm not sure if this issue was addressed, but as it stands now, there still is no overlapping material to directly compare the two troodonts, so it's impossible to prove synonymy at the moment (Borogovia is known from leg and foot bones lacking the rest of the skeleton, Zanabazar is known from a partial skeleton lacking leg and foot bones). But if any further material for either species turns up, and they turn out to be synonyms, Borogovia will win the day as the older name. Not that Zanabazar isn't a cool name in and of itself. But how boss would it be to name a hypothetical new Nemegt therizinosaur (with their long necks, giant claws, and overall freakish appearance) after the Jabberwock itself? A mammal called "Momerathobataar"? "Tovia slithius" the nematode to complete the set? Will, 70 years later, an oviraptorid have to be re-named "Toviamaia"? Too many Nemegt fauna inside jokes? Yeah, I'll stop.

Above: The resemblance is uncanny! Left: Jabberwock by John Tenniel, 1871. Right: Therizinosaurus by Apokryltaros, licensed.

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