What's in a Name?
The "chasms" in the frill of the Vagaceratops irvinensis are clearly visible in this anterior view.
A lot of thought went into finding a meaningful scientific name for this new dinosaur: Vagaceratops irvinensis.
Scientific names are in Latin and consist of two parts:
- the name of the genus (capitalized) followed by
- the species name in lower-case letters.
The first part of the scientific name was originally Chasmosaurus. It acknowledged the openings ("chasms") in the skull, particularly those in the frill. And, -saurus means lizard.
Subsequently, more chasmosaur fossils were found, and the information that was learned from them indicated that the classification of the genus Chasmosaurus needed to be adjusted. As a result, in 2010 it was split into two genera: Chasmosaurus and Vagaceratops. The new dinosaur was reclassified as Vagaceratops.
"Vagaceratops" combines references to vagus, which means "wanderer" in Latin, and ceratops, which means "horned face" in Greek.
An illustration of a lateral view of the Vagaceratops irvinensis skull.
The second part, the species name irvinensis, remains the same. It was chosen after the specimen had been studied in enough detail to establish its unique characteristics and differentiate it from other species. The species was given the name irvinensis after the town of Irvine (pop. 350) in southeast Alberta, near where the skeleton was found. The dinosaur was formally "named" with the publication of its description in a scientific publication, The Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.
Before the species was given its scientific name we asked for your help in a contest to give it a nickname! We chose a nickname from your suggestions: Chasy. It was suggested by Adam Strueby of Regina, Saskatchewan.