A while back, we reported on scientists discovering and naming a new type of pterosaur — basically a kind of flying dinosaur, colloquially speaking — after Drogon from Game of Thrones. The new animal was christened “Targaryendraco wiedenrothi,” and it was awesome, even if it didn’t breath fire.
I know I’m dealing in stereotype here, but it’s not super surprising that scientists — in this case paleontologists — go in for stuff like Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings. On that note, a whole new group of scientists recently discovered another ancient reptile in Brazil’s Sanga do Cabral Formation, and decided to name this one after Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings.
As fans know, Aragorn has many names. When he assumes the throne of the kingdom of Gondor at the end of the series, he takes the name King Elessar Telcontar. He’s also known as Strider, and as Longshanks, a name given to him by Bill Ferny in the village of Bree.
The researchers who found this new reptile took inspiration from a couple of these names, and named it “Elessaurus gondwanoccidens.”
“Elessaurus” comes from “Elessar,” which means “elf-stone” in Quenya, one of several Elvish languages J.R.R. Tolkien devised for his story. And according to MSN, the researchers thought it was appropriate to name the reptile after reptile after Longshanks because it had long legs.
Meanwhile, the name “gondwanoccidens” is derived from the supercontinent Gondwana, which broke apart millions of years ago. And ” occidens” means “from west,” which is where the fossil was found. I don’t know if that part was an intentional reference The Lord of the Rings, but the West definitely does hold a special significance in Tolkien’s work. is pretty interesting. Aragorn is one of the Dúnedain, which means, “Men of the West.”
A lot happened on the Earth over the past several hundred million years, huh?
Elessaurus gondwanoccidens was an archosauromorph that lived in the Early Triassic period, after the Permian extinction wiped out the majority of life on the planet under mysterious circumstances some 250 million years ago. The researchers think the animal is a cousin of the tanystropheids, long-necked reptiles with elongated spines kept close to the ground. The fact that they found Elessaurus further south from its cousin suggests it diversified, spread and evolved after the Permian extinction. The researchers published their findings in the journal Plos One if you want to learn more.
And eventually, Elessaurus will return to become the reptile king. Although we don’t have scientific evidence for that one.