What is a Name?
If you had determined this specimen to be a new coyote species, what
would you call it? Canis irvingtonensis Savage would be a good choice.
The name has meaning: Canis designates the animal and the genius to which it
belongs; irvingtonensis designates that species and also the location
where the animal was found, with the addition of the Latin suffix-ensis, which
is required by international rules. (You can be certain that much
paleontological literature was searched to make sure that no other coyote,
living or extinct, was called by this name.) And savage is the name of the man
who formally identified the creature. Note that the specimen’s first (genus)
name is capitalized, the second (species) name is not, and that both are
italicized. The scientist’s name is not italicized.
Not all scientific name designate the characteristics of the animals to
which they refer, even though they meet the requirements of the rules. There are
many unfortunate examples to be found in scientific literature. Torix, Mycelis,
and Oxynoe, for instance, are names given to certain genera of living organisms.
(Try to decipher their meaning by searching in a lexicon.) The following names
given by another author to genera of crustaceans are without any significant
meaning to the public; they are anagrams of his wife’s name, Carolina;
Cirolana, Conilera, and Nerocila. They say nothing about the animals. Creating a
scientific name is a serious business. Once published, the name should have
definite meaning for scientist (and lay men) all over the world, in every
Canis irvingtonesis is a comparatively short name. Its spelling is
easy to learn. (For brevity, it may be written as C. irvingtonensis or
just C. i., if the full name has been used before.) In contrast, try learning to
spell gammaracanthuskotylodermogammarus! This term was once used to name a
species of amphipod (sand flea).
Many rules limit guide the making of a new scientific name. Only a few
have been suggested here. You can go further into this subject by reading
“Naming the Living World,” by Theodore Savory, a noted scientific writer. In
his book Dr. Savory lists seven simple recommendations for naming newly
discovered organisms: A scientific name should (1) be in Latin or easily
converted into Latin; (2) contain at least three but not more than twelve
letters; (3) be easy to pronounce; (4) convey a meaning, preferably pertinent to
the organism to which it belongs; (5) not be derived from two languages; (6) not
contain numerals or hyphenated words; (7) not be frivolous that is, silly or
In your opinion, how does C. irvingtonensis Savage rate when
judged by Savory’s standards?
In addition to the two jaw specimens, one other Canis irvingtonensis
bone was discovered. It was a well-preserved left radius, one of the two lower
front leg bones. After comparing the measurements of this fossil and radii from
other coyote species, living and extinct, Savage proceeded to speculate on what
kind of coyote it belonged to and what its general environment might have been.
To quote from his thesis.
the evidence of the jaw and the radius it may be visualized that this
shorter-jawed, shorter limbed, stockier animal from Irvington was a coyote with
habitus tending to be somewhat different from known coyotes and perhaps
resembling in some respect the foxes. It seems possible that C. irvingtonensis
was adapted to living in a brush country and did not run for long distances, as
compared to the longer-limbed plains and plains-border coyote.
As a result of measurements and comparison, most of the Irvington fossils
have been identified and grouped taxonomically. Figure 22 contains the
classifications published to date.
|Euceratherium Sinclair and