Introducing Bentonyx

Very longtime readers will know that one of my first papers (and indeed posts) was on the rhynchosaur Fodonyx. Rhynchosaurs are archosauromorphs – reptiles that lie just outside the archosaurs and thus this representes one of the Musings’ rare departure from that group despite this being a totally artificial and near-random name anyway). Anyway, the erection of the name Fodonyx was based around a new skull and some other postcranial material that was recovered from several sites around the south of England. The paper was originally part of my PhD thesis, and my supervisor, Mike Benton, helped nurture it to publication.

Mike is well known in the palaeo community and the University of Bristol (mostly through Mike) has handled a huge number of people through their masters, PhDs or postdocs to the point that there seems to be someone just about anywhere if you look. I know of people working in or are from Australia, France, Germany, China, Japan, the US, Canada, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, and beyond. Mike is also perhaps the world expert on rhynchosaurs and worked on them for his PhD under Alick Walker. There are really quite a few of these critters in the UK and despite having a global distribution, the UK has been a bit of a centre for rhynchosaur research as a result.

Back in January of 2009, Darren Naish wrote this on his blog, while talking about rhynchosaurs in general “Someone should definitely name a rhynchosaur taxon Bentonyx one day. Alas poor Mike, at the moment his only patronym is the procolophonoid Kapes bentoni”. Mike for all his plaudits has done rather badly for taxa (palaeo greats generally get something named after them at some point and generally by one of their students). This rang bells in my ears as I had had similar thoughts myself, but knew I’d probably never go back to rhynchosaurs. So I did the next best thing and mailed Adam Yates and Max Langer – old colleagues and ‘Bentonites’ who work in South Africa and Brazil respectively where rhynchosaurs are often found. I mentioned that this was a good idea and if either of them happened across a new rhynchosaur then naming it after Mike was the obvious way to go.

Max replied promptly with one of those ‘funny you should mention it’ e-mails. He and his PhD student Felipe Montefeltro had been looking at Fodonyx and thought that actually the separate skull might belong to a new genus. Max took on the challenge and roped in most of the world’s few rhynchosaur researchers and together we produced a paper, out today, naming the animal after Mike. Bentonyx is now a new genus of British rhynchosaur honoring Mike Benton.

Oddly enough this is the name Darren first proposed. While he can take all the glory, the name was arrived at by chance. I’d only suggested we name it for Mike and had never mentioned his proposed name, nor do I think the others had read Darren’s piece and in any case it was months before we thought about a name properly. We actually sent through quite a few possibilities and actually Bentonyx was a bit of a last-minute decision and I think it’s probably little more than a happy coincidence and the fact that the name just sounds right (a much under appreciated part of taxonomy).

There’s really not too much to add to this since this is more about taxonomy than much else since the critical specimen (the skull) was described in some detail not long ago (by me, obviously). Still max added some revisions and indeed new reconstructions of the skull and a new analysis in the paper of Devon taxa shows the difference of this new genus from the others.

Really all I can say is thanks again to Darren for the original idea, thanks to Max for letting me in on the paper, and thanks to Mike for all his hard work and time in getting me (and so many others) to where we are now. And of course, hello to Bentonyx.

Langer, M.C., Montefeltro, F.C., Hone, D.W.E., Whatley, R. & Schultz, C.R.  ON FODONYX SPENCERI AND A NEW RHYNCHOSAUR FROM THE MIDDLE TRIASSIC OF DEVON. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30(6):1884–1888

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