Field of Science

Another North American Triassic Dinosaur that Wasn't

Holbrook, Arizona is a small little city of barely 5,000 people along Interstate 40 in Northeastern Arizona and is where I call home because it is the closest city to the Petrified Forest National Park. It's a neat little place, an old Route 66 town (this sign is visible from my home) with an even older bloody wild west history.

The local paper, the Holbrook Tribune, has a weekly feature where they reprint news snippets from the last 10, 25, 50, and 75 years. This one caught my eye in last Friday's edition.

"25 Years Ago - The oldest articulated dinosaur was named after Holbrook, according to Petrified Forest National Park Superintendent Ed Gastellum. Known affectionately as "Gertie," its official name was Holbrookosauras Smallii, honoring the community of Holbrook and Brian [sic] Small, the discoverer of the remains at the Petrified Forest."

Twenty five years ago, 1986, marked nearly a year since the specimen was collected in the most spectacular manner. I had always thought that the first unofficial name applied to the specimen was the nomen nudum "Chindesaurus bryansmalli" by Murry and Long (1989) but it looks like "Holbrookosauras smallii" beat it by several years. 

Obviously the valid name for this specimen today is Chindesaurus bryansmalli Long and Murry 1995. The name Chindesaurus is derived from Chinde (Navajo for ghost or spirit) Point in Petrified Forest National Park, near where the specimen was collected.

So it appears that for some reason the City of Holbrook lost out on their dinosaur name.  Fortunately, they did just get a style of new Oakley brand sunglasses designed by professional snowboarder Shaun White named for the town so all is not lost, and there are still tons of fossils waiting to be discovered out there in the Chinle Formation, including the elusive Triassic dinosaurs; so their day still may come. Next time we will get the spelling right though ;).

3 comments:

  1. Excellent find! Now we just need the article title, date, author and page number for a proper citation. I'm guessing you'd have to access a microform archive in Holbrook for that though...

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  2. I don't think nomina nuda like this serve any valuable purpose in being catalogued in anything shy of a comprehensive listing or historical review of the nomenclature itself. A factoid only slightly more useful than a lapsus calami.

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  3. I just found it interesting, but wasn't going to pursue a nomen nudum citation. It just sounds like something the superintendent announced in front of a group and the reporter wrote it down.

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