The Only Taxon I Would Ever Name

I’ve said it elsewhere on this blog, on the Dinosaur Mailing List, to friends, and elsewhere. I am not interested in nomenclature, although I am interested in systematics. For me, the real fun is in functional morphology and evolutionary trends in diet. To this end, I am drawn away from explicit taxonomy and further towards applications of detailed functional anatomy. Despite this, there is ONE taxon I would like to name, and really only one (my ego would ask me to bow out of nomenclature in any paper I was partner to that would name a new taxon were I to get a shot at this one). And here it is:

GI 100/42.

This is GI 100/42 (also, IGM 100/42), and has been referred to by some as the Zamyn Kondt oviraptorid, as it derived from the Zamyn Kondt locality in Ömnögov Aimag, Mongolia. It’s the largest known oviraptorid, and the most famous. It is the typical image of Oviraptor philoceratops (due unfortunately to Barsbold’s 1976 referral of this specimen to that taxon), and the most enigmatic as it has only been described, in part, in a Russian publication.

Barsbold R. 1976. О новом позднемеловом семействе мелкиж теропрод (Oviraptoridae fam. n.) Монголий (A new Late Cretaceous family of small theropods (Oviraptoridae fam. n.) in Mongolia). Доклады Академии наук, СССР — Doklady Akadyemii nauk, S.S.S.R. 226:685-688. (in Russian)
Barsbold R. 1983. Жыщнйе динозаврй мела Монголий (Carnivorous dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of Mongolia). Трудй – Совместная Совестко-Монгольской Палеотологыческая Зкспедитсия — Joint Soviet-Mongolian Paleontological Expedition, Transactions 19:1-120. (in Russian, w/ English summary)

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10 Responses to The Only Taxon I Would Ever Name

  1. Andrea Cau says:

    You’re the second guy I know that would like to name this oviraptorid. If diagnostic, it would need a name.

  2. Andy says:

    Unless you have seen a specimen in person (and spent a reasonable amount of time with a specimen to understand its morphology), I would not recommend putting a name on it. . .(please forgive me if I’m reading too much into your intentions with this post)

    • I appreciate the concern, Andy. I have absolutely no intention of ever doing anything with GI 100/42 without ever examining the material in the minutest of detail. I would monograph the [CENSORED] out of that specimen. I know currently that several features are useful in diagnosing the specimen as unique from other oviraptorids, but this is horribly dependent on a brief view of specimens. It would depend on examination of types and major specimens of other taxa, yet were these to support the quality of segregating this specimen from other named taxa, then I would want to be ON THAT. I even have a name picked out, and it would honor the familiarity and the Mongolian nature of the form.

  3. I’d like to ask Andy why he thinks it’s necessary to have seen a specimen in person for a significant time in order to name it. The autapomorphies of most taxa are easily seen in photographs, so if you have a collection of 40 photographs showing IGM 100/42 in different angles and magnifications (as I do), do you really expect things to be that different when you see the specimen yourself? We’d probably diagnose IGM 100/42 based on things like manual proportions and skull shape which are obvious in the photos and not likely to be caused by taphonomy or preparation. I know the standard line is that we need access to the specimens themselves to publish anything useful about them, but honestly after seeing specimens in person myself, most are exactly what I thought from their photos. I think Jaime could write a better paper from photos than many professionals do from the actual specimens.

    • Mickey, I appreciate the vote of confidence, but I would still want to spend a long (and warm) evening with the specimen first. And my camera and computer would be filled to the brim. I’d also likely want examination casts in a more comfortable area (if possible). Scanning the skull and major bones would help, too, both surface and CT.

    • Andy says:

      It isn’t necessary to see a specimen in person, but it is highly desirable. In my own experience with multiple specimens (weighted towards ceratopsians, of course), I’ve been amazed by how many “sutures” end up being cracks upon personal examination of a specimen (and vice versa), or how certain aspects of distortion or reconstruction are not easily visible in a set of photographs. In my opinion, one would want the description accompanying the name to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible, and this simply requires an in-person visit to a specimen (or study of an adequate cast, for some features).

      An alternative is to collaborate with someone who has ready access to the specimen, who can check aspects of the description. In fact, this might be the best way for Jaime to go forward.

      As a final issue, it may be worth finding out whether or not someone is already working on the specimen. . .of course, it is quite possibly one of those 20 year projects (in which case I think it’s about time to relinquish the project to someone else).

      • And this is one of the reasons why I want to see the specimen in person. ot only do I want CT of the skull specifically, I have an hypothesis of the crest that only examination can resolve. Being able to photograph and examine the vertebrae would go a long way to expanding our knowledge of the oviraptorid postcranium, as yet largely undescribed in the modern literature.

        • Andy says:

          Heck, the postcrania of the vast majority of dinosaurs is largely undescribed in the modern literature! Right now a student and I are putting together a photographic atlas for one in particular. . .

          • Yeah, but GI 100/42 has a special place for me, as ceratopsians do for you. I’d personally like to review all of the oviraptorosaurs, eventually, or at least the ones that Norell et al. do not get to first.

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