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Nutty Nomenclature

Nutty Nomenclature

All species of organism are given their own specific name by the taxonomist who first describes them.  Every now and again the taxonomists allow themselves to have a little bit of fun.  This is our guide to some more mischievously named species.

Scrotum humanum

Don’t get it? Aww bless you!

What is it?
It's actually the first dinosaur ever discovered, now more commonly known as Megalosaurus.

Where are they found? Most fossils have been found in Europe, this first one being dug up in a quarry near Oxford in 1676.

When were they first named? It was given the name Scrotum humanum in 1763 but it didn't catch on, it was renamed Megalosaurus by Reverand Buckland in 1824. The word dinosaur wasn't coined until sixteen years later.

Who deserves the credit? British naturalist Richard Brookes.

Brian the SnailIs there a picture? To the right is a picture of the first dinosaur bone described by western science. It is the end of a Megalosaurus' femur, but you can kind of see why Brookes named it as he did. History could have been very different if his name had stuck, dinosaurs could have had a very different reputation altogether.

The story of the discovery of dinosaurs is described in
Deborah Cadbury's The Dinosaur Hunters - one of Mark's all time favourite science books. It's a story of intrigue, plot and a really nasty piece of work called Richard Owen.

Check out some other weird species names

Null's other regular features:

Monday: Phunny Phobias
Wednesday: Doctor Doctor
Thursday: Peculiar Periodicals
Friday: End of week timewasters
Title image: W

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10 May 2011
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