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Inspiration at the bottom of a bone

Jennifer's Journal

The recent unveiling of Scotty the T-rex in our city and the discovery of dinosaur bones in Edmonton has got me thinking about dinos, lately.

There was a time during my childhood when I wanted to be a palaeontologist (in addition to wanting to be an archaeologist, a famous Hollywood actress and an astronaut). I thought that digging up bones from millions of years ago would be exciting. Maybe dusting old bones isn't everybody's idea of excitement but the job does seem to go to some interesting characters.

Take the story of how the Royal Saskatchewan Museum's Scotty the T-rex got his name, for instance.

Although one of Scotty's tail bones was discovered by school teacher Robert Gebhardt in 1991, the majority of the T-rex was unearthed by RSM palaeontologist Tim Tokaryk who gave Scotty his name. Tokaryk said he and his staff were indulging in a bottle of scotch during the excavation in 1994; hence Scotty the T-rex was born!

You probably heard about the recent discovery made by workers digging a sewer tunnel in Edmonton who unearthed the bones of two species of dinosaurs, including one similar to the Tyrannosaurus rex. Experts believe the bones are from the Albertosaurus and the Edmontosaurus, two dinosaur names that did not take a lot of imagination to come up with.

On the other hand, another newly discovered dinosaur received an amusing name, recently. Nicholas Longrich at Yale University came up with the name Mojoceratops for the species he discovered in Canada.The dinosaur's frill, which was probably used to attract mates, is heart-shaped, so when Longrich and his colleagues were out for a few beers, he came up with the non-traditional name.When Longrich looked up the word he discovered that "mojo" is an early 20th century African-American term meaning a magic charm or talisman, often used to attract members of the opposite sex.Longrich knows his dino's name is less conventional than most, as palaeontologists often employ Greek words that describe the animal, but he felt that his name was more fun.

Be sure to check out Scotty the T-rex at the Soo Line Historical Museum, especially if you have kids. That big dino head will inspire their imagination just like a bottle of scotch inspired his name!