The incipit of an item in the Vancouver Sun:
Two Canadian scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of horned dinosaur — a seven-metre-long, magnificently adorned predecessor of the famed Triceratops — that gobbled plants near the present-day Montana-Alberta border nearly 80 million years ago.
The stunning new species has been identified as Medusaceratops lokii, a nod to two freakish mythological beings that inspired Michael Ryan — the dinosaur’s Ottawa-born co-discoverer– when it came time to assign a name to the creature.
“Medusa” — from the mythic Greek monster whose serpentine hairdo could turn her victims into stone — describes the distinctive “snakelike hooks” found on the ornamental frill at the back of the dinosaur’s skull.
And “Loki” pays homage to the Norse god of mischief, a reference to how tricky it was for Ryan and his research partner — University of Calgary biologist Anthony Russell — to nail down the identity of the big-horned reptile.
“One of the things I have a problem with as a paleontologist is how some of my colleagues come up with terribly unpronounceable names,” said Ryan, a Carleton University graduate who is now an adjunct professor there as well as the head of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
“I like to give my dinosaurs names that roll off the tongue and actually evoke an image,” he told Canwest News Service on Friday.
Thanks to Ryan’s childhood memories of the 1981 fantasy-film classic Clash of the Titans (which featured a memorable animated Medusa) and his nerdy appetite for Marvel comics (which portray Loki as a terrifying, horned villain), the name of the world’s newest dinosaur is an unforgettably vivid blend of classic scientific nomenclature and pop-culture kitsch.