Preservation Thursday

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Feathered Serpents, Sand Demons and Cat-Faced Men: The Use of Native American Language in Paleontology Nomenclature

Taxonomic names in biology and paleontology have traditionally been limited to Greek or Latin derivatives. With increased worldwide participation in the biological sciences, a wider variety of languages are being utilized to name new organisms, from Spanish to German to Mongolian. In the United States, a great deal of fossil material is derived from tribal lands. In honor of these fossils' points of origin, numerous taxa have been named utilizing words derived from Native American languages such as Navajo, Nahuatl and Lakota. Join Darrin Pagnac, assistant professor of geology and geological engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, as he surveys some of these names and the fossils that now bear them.