What do you call a gigantic lizard no human will ever see?
But among all the awesome details about the sauropod, one of the awesomest was a human touch: its name, Dreadnoughtus schrani. The dreadnought was a turn-of-the-last-century battleship, while “schrani” pays tribute to entrepreneur Adam Schran, who helped finance the research. As Slate blogger Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote, “DREADNOUGHTUS....You don’t have to write it with all capital letters, but it’s recommended.”
The scientists who named Dreadnoughtus were building on a longstanding tradition of dinosaur names that emphasize massiveness, fearsomeness, or general ability to inspire awe, from Tyrannosaurus Rex (“tyrant lizard king”) to more recent inventions like Diabloceratops (“devil-horned face”) or Anzu, named after a Sumerian winged demon. Dinosaur names have a poetry that transcends any taxonomic requirement: The names must convey the wonder that scientists feel toward these monumental, vanished beasts—and in turn capture the imaginations of kids, museum-goers, and potential donors.
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