Thursday, April 18, 2013

How do Dinosaurs count to ten?

So, I'm reading with the Little Bear, and we get to one of her favorites, How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten?:

She loves naming the different dinosaurs (which, at 2 really amazes me - I had no idea how quickly kids pick up these things). We get to the page with the flying dinosaur that is labeled as a Pteranodon. I tell her it is a Pteranodon, and she responds:

"No mommy, that is a Pterodactyl."

What? First, I'm floored that she knows the word, "Pterodactyl". Second, I can clearly read that it is a "Pteranodon", but I don't know enough about dinosaurs to know if she is right, so, of course, I had to look it up.

The first thing I learned is that Pteranodon is a genus of reptiles, not actually dinosaurs, and that the flying replica I walk past every morning is actually a Pteranodon!:

Pteranodon I walk by every morning, Wikimedia Commons

Then, I learned that "pterodactyl" isn't actually a thing, but a sort of slang word often used to refer to a group of flying reptiles:

1. There's no such creature as a "pterodactyl."

It's unclear at what point "pterodactyl" became a synonym for pterosaurs in general, and Pterodactylus and Pteranodon in particular, but the fact remains that this is the word most people use. Working paleontologists never refer to "pterodactyls," preferring to focus on individual pterosaur genera.

This reminded me of the story of the Apatosaurus (and Brontosaurus mix-up).

"Brontosaurus" by

 After all this, I finally decided that, even though I have no idea when I'll read it, I should (and then did) buy the new book, My Beloved Brontosaurus, by Brian Switek, a paleontologist and science writer I recently met:

My Beloved Brontosaurus (see review here) will be waiting patiently for me on the kindle. I wonder if the Little Bear would like to read along with me?

Dinosaur enthusiast

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