Protoceratops Name

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Protoceratops Name

The first fossils of Protoceratops were discovered in 1922 by James Blaine Shackelford, a photographer who was part of an American expedition to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia that was looking for early human fossils. The expedition was led by Roy Chapman Andrews.

James B. Shackelford:
James B. Shackelford

Scientists classify living things, including animals, using a hierarchical system of names. The lowest two levels in this system are the Genus (which refers to a closely related group of animals), and the Species (animals so closely related that they can breed and produce fertile offspring). The Genus and Species are often used in combination to identify a particular animal (this is known as the "Scientific Name" or "Binomen") of the animal. This system of naming animals is known as "Binomial nomenclature".

Walter Granger and W.K. Gregory first described Protoceratops in 1923, and chose the name:
  • For the Genus, they chose "Protoceratops", from the Ancient Greek words "proto" (first), "cerat" (horn), "ops" (face) - hence meaning "first horned face".

  • For the Species, they chose "andrewsi" in honor of Roy Chapman Andrews.
American Museum party at Bone-Cabin Quarry, 1899
Walter Granger is second from the left:
Walter Granger is second from the left

In 1975, two Polish paleontologists, Teresa Maryanska and Halszka Osmólska described a second species of Protoceratops, which they called Protoceratops kozlowskii. However, their find is now generally considered to be an example of a different animal, Bagaceratops (a relative of Protoceratops).

In 2001, a second valid species of Protoceratops was described, Protoceratops hellenikorhinus. The word "hellenikorhinus" means "with Greek nose", and is intended to reflect that it has two small nasal horns (although some specimens seems to lack horns entirely, which may be a reflection of a difference between the sexes - "sexual dimorphism").

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