Field of Science

The Dinosaur Diagnosis Wars

Zach Miller at When Pigs Fly Returns has offered up a couple of original diagnoses of dinosaur species to be guessed at, here and here. So far I've gotten him on both of them, so I thought it only fair to offer my own up in return. So, Zach, anyone, can you identify what beasty made its debut under these words:

The vertebrae, and the bones of the limbs and of the feet, are so much like the corresponding parts of the typical Stegosaurus from the Jurassic, that it would be difficult to separate the two when in fragmentary condition, as are most of those from the later formation. The latter forms, however, are of larger size, and nearly all the bones have a peculiar rugosity, much less marked in the Jurassic species. In the form here described, this feature is very conspicuous, and marks almost every known part of the skeleton...

The top of the skull... is thick and massive, and strongly rugose.

This skull as a whole must have had at least fifty times the weight of the skull of the largest Sauropoda known, and this fact will give, some idea of the appearance of this reptile when alive.

In the interests of full disclosure, I've omitted a paragraph or two there, but only because if I had included the missing section it would have all been too easy. And if I'm to be labelled "a right bastard", then I feel that I must do what I can to maintain the honorific.


  1. I'm going to hazard that it's not Stegosaurus.

  2. Seriously, though ... a ceratopsid? Polyonax?

  3. Getting warm. I did try and find the description for Polyonax, but couldn't. Besides, who the heck has even heard of Polyonax mortuarius? (Though personally I think it's rather a pity that the "dead master of many" is no longer with us as a valid taxon, because that has got to be one of the coolest names of any dinosaur, bringing up as it does the image of some great undead hulk haulking itself from unhallowed grave).

  4. That would be Triceratops horridus!

  5. And Julia takes the prize - a year's supply of vowels! (And as a Briton, she needs more of them). Sorry Mike, it seems you were being a little too clever - to quote Amenadiel in the Lucifer series, "Never overlook the completely obvious". The species was indeed Ceratops horridus, named by Marsh in 1889, due to be elevated to a new genus Triceratops before the year had even closed. Thanks go to Matt Wedel, whose webpage has a whole swag of papers by Marsh freely available online.

    And obviously, the bits I left out were where Marsh goes on about the whacking great horns. I felt that was a bit of a giveaway.

  6. Woot! Vowels - just what I always wanted. Especially the "a"s and the "u"s.

    So, should I come up with something now? Has Zach created a monster?

  7. Yes, Julia. Give us your revised diagnosis of Cetiosauriscus!

    Good to see jump on this bandwagon, Chris. I was actually going to say Ankylosaurus, because stegosaur forefeet and ceratopsid forefeet are quite distinct!

  8. Shoot. Pressed "Enter" too quickly. Chris, damn you man, you've just forced me to read all those descriptions--you know this! Classic Bone Wars monographs? With unbelievably beautiful original drawings and that witty tone of older paleo papers?

    I cannot resist, sir! *bookmark'd*

  9. No revised diagnosis until it's been published. As Tom Holtz says, Wait For The Paper!

    Okay, I'll see if I can come up with something. I have an idea for a really mean one...


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