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Common names for prehistoric animals; Using trends in the naming of living animals to explore the idea of common names being given to extinct animals
Topic Started: Jan 12 2018, 09:27 PM (502 Views)
Rhinobot
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A while ago out of curiosity, I started looking up the etymology of various animal names. That got me thinking about the names of extinct animals. What names would our ancestors have given them? Not actually creating a world where they coexisted, but simple the scenario of ancient people getting the chance to observe them and develop a name for them. So I thought it would be interesting to imagine possible common names for prehistoric animals using trends in the naming of living animals. With that being said, I started this topic with the intention of opening the discussion and see what ideas people come up with for naming these creatures.
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Yiqi15
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I'm going to start off with Tyrannosaurus. Obviously, indigenous people would be the ones who are naming the animal in the scenario, and would probably name it after physical traits.

Iseeduuleepe: crow translation for Big Jaws, given how tyrannosaines' large heads are arguably their most notable trait. Would potentially be anglicised/shortened to isedulepe.
Helawedappee: crow translation for night killer, as there is a theory tyrannosaurus was a nocturnal hunter.
Inno’simohpiikin: blackfoot translation for long tooth, because again, the teeth of the animal are definitely notable.
Edited by Yiqi15, Jan 13 2018, 07:29 PM.
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Chuditch
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I once made a list of common names for Australian megafauna based on aboriginal legends and dialect. I can't find it, but I can remember their names.

  • Varanus prisca - Dirawong; giant goanna creator spirit (reasons obvious).
  • Wonambi naracoortensis - Wonambi; rainbow serpent creator spirit (that it was named after).
  • Thylacoleo carnifex - Malingee; malignant nocturnal spirit (given that it is a predator and could have been nocturnal if modern marsupials are anything to go by).
  • Quinkana fortirostrum - Quinkan; spirit that lurks in dark places (that it was named after).
  • Zygomaturus trilobus - Bunyip; swamp monster (because Zygomaturus is believed to be semi-aquatic and Aboriginals identify diprotodontid skulls as bunyips, and thus they are believed to have inspired the Bunyip myth).
  • Zygomaturus tasmanicus - Willauk; lake demon from Tasmania (because this species is Tasmanian and semi-aquatic).
  • Sthenurines - Yowies; hairy bipedal humanoid creatures (because they look and act oddly human, and are believed to have inspired the Yowie myth).
  • Thylacinus cyoncephalus - Ka-nunnah, Loonana, Langunta, Cab-berr-one-nen, Corinna; recorded aboriginal names of the Thylacine.
  • Genyornis newtoni - Mihirung; giant bird (almost certainly describing Genyornis).
  • Propleopus oscillans - Mokoi; spirit that kidnaps and eats children and kills the weak and old (given the probably opportunistic of the omnivorous giant rat-kangaroo)
A large amount of these are named after spirits, as the animals themselves could have possibly inspired them. I haven't been able to find a suitable name for either Diprotodon or Meiolania yet, I tried to find an aboriginal word for big (for Diprotodon) but came up with nothing. Otherwise I have most of the major Australian megafauna covered.
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Rhinobot
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Tyrannosaurus
Kukadoma'ay - (Northern Paiute) - Ku meaning "with teeth or edge" and kadoma'ay meaning "turn into nothing, break, destroy, or put out."
Tomoyaga tubba - (Northern Paiute) - Tomoyaga meaning "thunder" and tubba meaning "mouth."
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Yiqi15
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Gigantopithecus blacki: Zhulinxing - Zhúlín/竹林 meaning bamboo forest (gigantopithecus lived in bamboo forests as evidenced by isotope studies); Xīng/猩 mean ape, both in traditional chinese.
Edited by Yiqi15, Jan 21 2018, 12:37 PM.
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IIGSY
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Do modern Indigenous Australians have knowledge of the Australian megafauna? If so, to what extant?
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Rodlox
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Jan 13 2018, 12:17 PM
Do modern Indigenous Australians have knowledge of the Australian megafauna? If so, to what extant?
can they read books about the extinct animals of their continent? yes.

do they tell stories passed down from when those critters roamed the lands? some say yes, some say no.
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Chuditch
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Its debatable. Some say that a few of the giant creator spirit legends were inspired by megafauna for example Dirawong and the Rainbow Serpent (Wonambi). I say its really likely they just saw the regular sized goannas and snakes and supersized them; there are giant frog legends as well after all. However, some of their non-spirit creatures, like the Yowie and Bunyip, have uncanny similarities to some megafauna, making it very possible that the memories of these beasts were exaggerated and changed, for example turning an oddly humanoid kangaroo into an actual big hairy person and an aggressive semi-aquatic herbivore into a carnivorous riverine beast.

There are also possible rock paintings; there's a very convincing Palorchetes (marsupial tapir, shape unmistakable), a possible Thylacoleo (but could be a badly drawn Thylacine, the stripes down the back get people suspicious), and a probable Genyornis (but could be an emu). 'Mihirung paringmal' is a word from the Tjapwuring people of Western Victoria and it means 'giant bird', and is thought to refer to Genyornis. There is also a few records in Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, one off the top of my head is from Western Australia where a 'crocodile' was seen fighting off 'dingoes'; its possible that this was a Megalania fighting off a group of Thylacines, given that crocodiles have been absent from the south-west for a very long time, and if Megalania is indeed the explanation it would not have co-existed with dingoes.

Aboriginal people are noted for being extremely concerned in maintaining the health of their 'country' (the area where they live is called their country, does not refer to Australia itself, just a specific area that belongs to their group). They make sure they let resources replenish and move from place to place to make sure they do not cause too much damage to a particular area. Its a good strategy. There are several theories about why they did this, one being because its a smart thing to do (relatively simple and probable answer), and another that concerns the Pleistocene. Is it possible that they know what they caused? Aboriginal people caused major changes in the ecosystem (by decreasing soil quality, and therefore changing the plants that grow. This was probably caused by fire), and hunted the large herbivores to extinction, which in turn made the large carnivores starve. However, they now manage their land effectively, make sure they only take what they need and always leave some individuals to rebuild numbers. Is it possible that somewhere along the line the Aborigines worked out that the beasts in the stories the elders told them were no longer around, and even though the modern Aboriginals have no knowledge of the creatures (it is assumed most knowledge of them is now lost or morphed into legendary creatures like the Yowie or Bunyip) they have continued the practice their ancestors started? Its an interesting theory, but needs more grounding.

Anyway, just remember to take everything I said in this post with a grain of salt. Its almost entirely speculation. While we are certain that aboriginals came into contact with megafauna and caused their extinction, we don't really know if they have any real knowledge of them in the present day. Also, probably best to talk about this in Questions That Don't Need Their Own Topic next time, lets not derail this thread.
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GlarnBoudin
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Note: These might be horribly mangled from the original languages - I'm just a dude with Google Translate.


Tarbosaurus: All names are Mongolian unless noted otherwise
Khaanaraatnuud, 'King of Beasts' - such a large, powerful apex predator would no doubt be considered a king among animals.
Bergedluud, 'Eagle-dragon' - Fairly self-explanatory.
Ukheleruu, 'Death jaw' - after its incredibly powerful bite, along with its adaptations for attacking larger animals than itself; death comes for all, no matter how large, after all.
Chinese names:
- Beifanglong, Chinese for 'Northern dragon' - it ranged quite a bit north of China, basically
- Taotie, the name of one of the four fiends of Chinese mythology, specifically one that is notorious for being gluttonous. The thought process isn't that people would use it as inspiration for the taotie, but that they would name the dinosaur after it, similarly to how they named giraffes after kirin, rather than it inspiring the legend.


Spinosaurus:
-Rishatamah, Arabic for 'sail crocodile,' after its snout, lifestyle, and sail back.
-Nahrtanin, Arabic for 'river dragon' - it's an enormous reptilian predator with a very serpentine body, what do you expect?
-Juajoka, Swahili for 'sun dragon' - again, an enormous reptilian creature that probably spend a lot of time in the sun basking.

Carcharodontosaurus:
-Qarashsini, Arabic for 'shark tooth' - a bit boring, but I like how it sounds.
-Almultahima, Arabic for 'devourer' - this was an animal that killed and ate motherfucking sauropods and could widen its jaws, it's a fitting name.

Pelorovis:
-Mfalmenyati, Swahili for 'king buffalo' - such a very large animal, complete with a crown, would doubtlessly be considered a king.
-Tembonyati, Swahili for 'elephant buffalo,' for its huge size and tusk-like horns

Arsinoitherium:
-Rhininokiboko, Swahili for 'rhino hippo,' due to its likely semi-aquatic habits and general appearance

Uintatherium:
-Gruseltier, German for 'terror beast,' after its nightmarish appearance
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WaterWitch
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It would probably be good to shorten some names, as if they were named long ago, you could expect shorthanding and language change over time.
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