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13 Prehistoric Animals Named (In Part) By Patrick Druckenmiller

Naming an animal is a big deal. The genus/species name is often chosen to honor the place where the animal was discovered as well as people who were influential in the discovery of the animal. Any proposed name has to be approved by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. University of Alaska Museum Earth Sciences curator and UAF professor Patrick Druckenmiller has been a part of many teams that discovered previously unknown ancient creatures. Here are 13 prehistoric animals that Druckenmiller is credited with finding and naming. We contacted Druckenmiller and he provided some insight into how these creatures got their binomial nomenclatures.

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Edgarosaurus muddi (Druckenmiller, 2002)

Smokeybjb / Via upload.wikimedia.org

The genus is named after the community of Edgar, Montana, located near the type locality. ‘‘Mudd,’’ named in memory of Kevin Mudd (deceased) of Bridger, Montana.

Wapuskanectes bestynichollsae (Druckenmiller and Russell, 2006)

Via news.uaf.edu

Wapuska – Wabiskaw (the name of member it was found in) is a corruption of this word, derived from the Cree language meaning “a body of water with whitecaps on it” (Aubrey, 1996) and –nectes (Greek) “swimmer”.

(This is a photo of Druckenmiller working in the lab with another animal not actually bestynichollsae. No images of bestynichollsae were available at publishing time.)

Nichollssaura borealis (Druckenmiller and Russell, 2008)

Illustration by ArthurWeasley / Via upload.wikimedia.org

The genus name is in memory of Elizabeth “Betsy” Nicholls, curator of marine reptiles at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, for her lifelong work on marine vertebrates from western North America, and sauros (Gr.), ‘‘reptile’’ or ‘‘lizard’’. borealis, from Latin, meaning north; in reference to its occurrence in the Early Cretaceous Boreal Sea of the Western Interior Basin, and its northerly Distribution.

Pliosaurus funkei (Knutsen, Druckenmiller and Hurum, 2012)

Illustration by Rebecca Groom PixelMecha / Via pixelmecha.deviantart.com

Pliosaurus was named in 1842 by Richard Owen. funkei – Latin, in honour of Bjørn Funke, the discoverer of PMO 214.135 (previously known as Predator X), and his wife May-Liss Knudsen Funke who have dedicated several years of volunteer labour to the paleontological collections at the University of Oslo Natural History Museum.

Djupedalia engeri (Knutsen, Druckenmiller and Hurum, 2012)

Esther van Hulsen / Via dagbladet.no

The genus name is in honor of Øystein Kåre Djupedal, Norway’s Minister of Education and Research from 2005-2007, whose commitment to the Jurassic marine reptile project made the excavations in Svalbard possible. In honour of Øyvind Enger, long-time volunteer at the University of Oslo Natural History Museum who has been involved in the discovery and collection of marine reptiles in Svalbard for many years.

Spitrasaurus wensaasi (Knutsen, Druckenmiller and Hurum, 2012)

Photo by mjauliss / Via imagala.com

Named after Spitsbergen Travel, locally known and abbreviated “Spitra”. wensaasi in honor of Tommy Wensås, volunteer at the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, who has been involved in the discovery and collection of marine reptiles in Svalbard for many years.

Spitrasaurus larseni (Knutsen, Druckenmiller and Hurum, 2012)

ResearchGate / Via researchgate.net

Named larseni – in honour of Stig Larsen, volunteer at the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, who has been involved in the discovery and collection of marine reptiles in Svalbard for many years.

(Those are its teeth!)

Nakonanectes bradti (Serratos, Druckenmiller and Benson, 2017)

Illustration by James Havens / Via news.uaf.edu

Named Nakonanectes bradti for the Nakona, or Assiniboine, people of northeastern Montana and David Bradt, who found the specimen while elk hunting. It has an exceptionally short neck by elasmosaur standards in terms of both the number of vertebrae and absolute neck length. We estimate the neck included 39-42 vertebrae and was approximately 7.5-feet long. This is the shortest long-necked plesiosaur ever found in North America.

Athabascasaurus bitumens (Druckenmiller and Maxwell, 2010)

Photo courtesy GeoScience World / Via cjes.geoscienceworld.org

The generic name stems from Athabasca, in reference to the Athabasca River, which runs through Athabasca Oil Sands Area, where the type specimen was collected, and sauros (Gr.), ‘‘reptile’’ or ‘‘lizard’’. The specific epithet bitumineus (L.) refers to the tar or pitch that impregnates the bone and the fact it was recovered in an oil sands mine.

Cryopterygius kristiansenae (Druckenmiller, Hurum, Knutsen and Nakrem, 2012)

Esther van Hulsen / Via esthervanhulsen.deviantart.com

From cryo- (Gr.) meaning cold or frozen and – pterygius (Gr.) meaning fin, in reference to its distinctive paddle morphology and its occurrence in high latitudes and excavation out of permafrost. kristiansenae, in honour of Lena Kristiansen, long- time participant in the Spitsbergen Jurassic Research Group fieldwork on Spitsbergen.

Palvennia hoybergeti (Druckenmiller, Hurum, Knutsen and Nakrem, 2012)

Illustration by Malawania / Via anovaevolucao.blogspot.com

Palvennia from PalVenn (Friends of the Palaeontological Museum in Oslo), whose anniversary expedition in 2004 led to the discovery of SVB 1451. hoybergeti, in honour of Magne Høyberget of Mandal, Norway, long-time participant in the Spitsbergen Jurassic Research Group fieldwork on Spitsbergen

Janusaurus lundi (Roberts, Druckenmiller, Saetre and Hurum, 2014)

Illustration by Aubrey Roberts / Via voices.nationalgeographic.com

Genus name after the mountain Janusfjellet, on which the specimen was found. Species name in honor of Bjørn Lund, technician on the excavations in 2006-2012.

Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis (Mori, Druckenmiller, Erickson, 2015)

Illustration by James Havens / Via news.uaf.edu

Transliterated from the Alaskan Iñupiaq noun ugruŋnaq, referring to a grazing animal with a long set of grinding teeth, and the adjective -aluk, old. Literally, “ancient grazer”. Intended pronunciation: “oo-GREW- nah-luk”. The name honors the Alaskan Native Iñupiaq culture from the area where the type material was discovered. The specific name is derived from the Iñupiaq word kuukpik, which refers to the Colville River, Alaska, USA along which the type material was found.

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