As with other types of organism (including all plants and animals), dinosaurs are classified using the standard biological classification system (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species). The smallest unit of this system is the "species", which represents a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring, in other words, a particular "type" of animal.
Individual species of dinosaur (just like other organisms) are named using a naming system known as "binomial nomenclature" (sometimes also known as "binary nomenclature"). In this system, individual species are identified using a two part name consisting of the genus name, and a second word identifying a species within the genus. Some examples of scientific names of dinosaur species include "Tyrannosaurus rex", "Stegosaurus armatus" and "Allosaurus fragilis". As you may notice, in many cases, the genus names of dinosaurs (a genus may of course contain several species), such as "Stegosaurus" and "Allosaurus", are often more familiar than the names of individual species.
The exotic sounding words used in these names are usually derived from ancient Greek or Latin. So, for example "Tyrannosaurus" means "tyrant lizard", "rex" means "king", and hence "Tyrannosaurus rex" means "Tyrant lizard king". The particular words used, are chosen by the scientist who first discovers or describes the species, but their choice of name must be first approved by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature before it becomes official.
One unusual situation that may arise is if scientists chose different names for different fossils of the same animal, because they don't realize that they are in fact examples of the same animal (this is more common than you might expect - remember scientists are often working with only partial skeletons). In this case, the first chosen name is said to have "priority", and usually becomes the official name.
A particularly well-known example of this type of naming conflict is "Apatosaurus" versus "Brontosaurus". Othniel C. Marsh found a juvenile animal specimen in 1877 and named it "Apatosaurus ajax". He later found another animal specimen in 1879 and named it "Brontosaurus excelsus". However, it was only realized many years later (in 1903 by Elmer Riggs) that the two in fact were closely related, and arguably members of the same genus (some scientists, including Robert T. Bakker, still believe they should be classified as separate genera).
The list of dinosaur names runs to several hundred genera, and since some genera contain several distinct species, the list of dinosaur species, runs to many hundreds. The list of dinosaur names is also aways expanding as fossils from new species and genera are coming to light all the time.
Here are some of the better-known dinosaur names:
Related Information & Resources
Discuss This Page
Please feel free to post your comments using Facebook comment box (if you have a Facebook account), or Disqus comment box.
comments powered by Disqus
Linking to This Page
We do hope that you find this site useful. We welcome people linking to this website or citing us.