A Fanboyish Squee Goes Out To…


Wait, what? It was finally re-named? Squeeee!

Skeleton of Ajancingenia yanshini, including the holotype braincase, manus and pes (MPC-D 100/30), paratype mandible and limbs (MPC-D 100 31). Due to the nature of the issues surrounding consistency of the holotype, only the figured limb material and skull is shown, but substantive vertebral and rib material is known.

Skeleton of Ajancingenia yanshini, including the holotype braincase, manus and pes (MPC-D 100/30), paratype mandible and limbs (MPC-D 100 31). Due to the nature of the issues surrounding consistency of the holotype, only the figured limb material and skull is shown, but substantive vertebral and rib material is known. The skull of ZPAL MgD-i/95 is transposed for the braincase of MPC-D 100/30.

So as I may have mentioned once, even twice, before, the name “Ingenia” for Ingenia yanshini, the “huge thumb” oviraptorid (Barsbold, 1981), was preoccupied. Not by a beetle, not by any insect, but by a nemotode invisible to the naked eye (Gerlach, 1957). This problem has been known since the early 1990s, but nothing has been done because, as it also turns out, there has been some concern about what — precisely — consists of Ingenia yanshini. As early as 1997, Barsbold has claimed that work was in progress to address this issue, and part of that is determining what falls within yanshini, specimen-wise. There have been some suggestions thrown around, including considering the material a chimera or as indeterminate, or subsuming the “genus” into Conchoraptor and rendering the point moot. This last point is an odd one, as it suggests that you can refer any species to any supraspecific container without considering priority of nomenclature. But the ICZN is pretty clear on the process in which either preoccupied nomenclature under its purview must occur, and throwing old species names which are type species into younger supraspecific containers, such as “genera.” Paul’s (2008) concept of a “Conchoraptor yanshini” notwithstanding, no solutions have been on the offer … until now.

Writing in Zootaxa in a relatively short article promising more details on morphological details to follow, Jesse Easter has published new nomenclature, renamed “Ingenia” to Ajancingenia, from the Mongolian term ajanc (аянч), for traveller and a secondary reference to the Western allusion of sticking one’s thumb out for hitchhiking (I can’t help but think this is an entirely Western reference).


New information has arisen, and as may be read in the comments involve some more complicated issues. The first of these is that there was an issue between the reviewers and editor for Easter’s paper that resulted in some citations being removed, without the corresponding data those references were included for being also removed. So that data was retained without attribution, and this is problematic. At issue was that Easter has borrowed from Mickey Mortimer’s Theropod Database entry on “Ingenia” the specimen composition data (sans measurements), as pointed out on Andrea Cau’s Theropoda. Mickey Mortimer wrote more on this on his own blog, where some further issue was also raised.

(I do not also think that citing the Database is in error, but somewhere in the editorial and review process, Easter’s paper had the citation stripped. I am confused, because the data in the database has strong fidelity and reference to the relevant literature. A similar citation, one for the Paleobiology Database, was retained, including URL and access date. This is all that would be needed to make Mickey’s work citable, and yet it is not done.)

Many of us in the paleo community were quite aware of the issue of preoccupation, and were eagerly waiting, yet still very patiently, for the reassignment. But we’d all anticipated that it would be Barsbold Rinchen with Mark Norell and others at the AMNH who would do the renaming. This is now out of their hands, for better or for worse. But the issue of nomenclature is not now resolved. The name Ingeniinae, coined by Barsbold, is still around, and must now be changed. As it stands, the ICZN doesn’t allow automatic renaming; it must be explicitly coined. This means the authorship of a “Ajancingeniinae” will have to be resolved. And if you think this can be left by summarily synonymizing the name with another, you’d be mistaken: the ICZN does mandate that preoccupied names either be changed, or set aside, their authorship with them. The latter is unlikely to happen without extremes of misconduct being revealed. I do not think such extremes have occurred, and as such such reactions helpful to resolving the issues.

I will be clear, however the issue has come about, that I do not think it fair to claim all of the errors that have arisen with this new paper to be Easter’s fault alone. Somewhere along the way, the idea of some perfect method or the value of some websites over others — perhaps due to popularity, especially as Paleobiology Database has been cited in the literature before — hinders progress, not assists it. But similarly, many strides may be taken with relative newcomers to the fields, even those — like I — without degrees in hand. I worry that the resistance to Easter’s paper might be used against someone like me, someone who has just as much to lose from such an inauspicious beginning. That said, it is problematic that, as details emerge, the paper’s beginning was not heralded by the best of opportunities. The material to which is often termed “Ingenia” has never been adequately described, and aside from reference photographs that are kept close to the chests of those “in the know” the material is relatively unknown.

Barsbold R. 1981. Беззубйе хыщние динзавру Монголий [(Bezzubiye khishchniye dinozavry Mongolii) Edentulous carnivorous dinosaurs of Mongolia]. Trudy — Sovmestnaya Sovyetsko-Mongol’skaya Palyeontologicheskaya Ekspeditsiya 15: 28-39,124. (in Russian with English abstract)
Barsbold R. 1997. Oviraptorosauria. pp. 505-509 in Currie & Padian (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs. (Academic Press, New York.)
Easter, J. 2013. A new name for the oviraptorid dinosaur “Ingeniayanshini (Barsbold, 1981; preoccupied by Gerlash, 1957). Zootaxa 3737 (2): 184-190.
Gerlach, S. A. 1957. Marine Nematoden aus dem Mangroven-Gebiet von Cananéia. Brasilianische Meeres-Nematoden III. [Marine nematodes from the mangrove area of Cananéia. Brazilian marine nematodes III.]. Abhandlungen der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Klasse. Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz — Transactions of the Mathematical-Scientific Section, Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz 5: 129-176. (in German)

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10 Responses to A Fanboyish Squee Goes Out To…

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  3. Andrea Cau says:

    As I’ve discussed here (http://theropoda.blogspot.it/2013/11/il-preoccupante-caso-del-preoccupato.html) the fact that Barsbold is not co-author and he is neither acknowledged in the paper, and the evident plagiarism of part of Mickey Mortimer’s Theropod Database “Ingenia” page done by Easter (2013) make me feel this is not at all the correct way to resolve the taxonomy of this oviraptorid. Very bad episode.

    • I am hearing some reports that things aren’t as bad as this sounds. The appearance of this is serious, but it’s looking a lot better of Easter at the moment.

      • reggcato says:

        This matter has been brought to my attention, and I feel the following things should be clarified. Prior to undertaking this project I made every effort to contact Barsbold with full intention of co-authoring this paper with him. He has been aware of the preoccupation of Ingenia for almost 20 years and has not elected to propose a replacement name in that time. Mickey Mortimer’s website was originally credited in the first draft of the manuscript, but the editor (without realizing how similar the content was, hence why I credited Mortimer) suggested that referencing the theropod database was not appropriate and suggested I reference Barsbold (1981) instead. This was most certainly not an attempt at plagiarism on my part, and a correction will be published shortly in Zootaxa.

        • won lee sak says:

          The difference between similarity of ideas versus prose does not hold up here.

        • Thanks for the clarification, Jesse. Please note, though, that the situation is not fully in Barsbold’s hands at the moment: It has long been a project of the AMNH’s, however long it is actually taking, to redescribe the oviraptorids of Mongolia. When new stuff pops up (e.g., Khaan and Citipati) that data has taken a priority given the accessibility of the material. The holotypic material of most of the older taxa are all mounted and in some cases much less accessible when it comes to acquiring them for CT, etc. So I understand the frustration, but it was already on the radar of others.

          • Jesse Easter says:

            This is good to know; I will be issuing an official statement on the matter in the coming days.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Coming days”

    23 days later.

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