The making of a moniker: How Lane got his name and a Wyoming teenager got a spot in the history books

May 18, 2012

Ever wonder how specimens are named? Usually its to honor someone or something. Even scientific names can be conjured up to pay tribute to something; take Postosuchus, for example, a croc-oid creature named for the Post, Texas town where it was discovered.

Our mummified Triceratops, Lane, already had a scientific name, but he has a nickname that’s pretty special. Lane is named for Lane Zerbst, a 16-year-old boy from Lusk, Wy. whose grandmother, Arlene Zerbst, discovered our Triceratops‘ remains in 2007 while hiking on her property.

HMNS’ Associate Curator of Paleontology David Temple with Lane, Arlene and Kelsey Zerbst.

A portion of our new Triceratops‘ spine was sticking out of the ground, and could you believe that this wasn’t the first Triceratops discovery Arlene had made on her property?

A first specimen was discovered in 1997 and now resides in the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Arlene named it Kelsey, for her granddaughter, and the second Triceratops Lane, for her grandson.

“We usually go out and look for frags [fragments]. If you find something, great, and if you don’t, it’s a fun afternoon out,” Arlene says. The day Lane was discovered Arlene had been out hiking and hunting fossils with a friend when she heard her friend call out. “She said, ‘I think we found some bones!’ I trekked back down the hill and got to looking and I could see vertebrates sticking out.”

Arlene, who along with her husband is an amateur fossil hunter, took a sample and sent it to the Black Hills Institute for analysis. It wasn’t until about three weeks ago when Lane was fully assembled and cleaned up that she was able to see just how significant of a find it was.

Arlene says the family still takes their four-wheelers to hunt fossils on the property when they have time, and her grandson is delighted to have a specimen of his favorite type of dinosaur named for him.

The Zerbst ranch in Niobrara County, Wyoming is part of the expansive Lance Creek fossil bed, which contains the fossils of many dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Period and has been the site of many Triceratops discoveries.

tarty map
The Lance Creek Formation was once contiguous but has since been broken apart by time and erosion.

Speaking of names, you have the opportunity to make history of your own! You have until 5 p.m. to decide on the moniker for our new T-Rex Trying mascot. For a refresher, your choices are Tex, Huey, Amigo, Sam and Tiny. Vote for your favorite here!

Authored By Caroline Gallay

Caroline was the Digital Media Editor at HMNS from 2012 to 2013. She was responsible for telling the Museum’s story online. You could find Caroline on the site profiling characters around the museum and making sure you knew what the what was going on around this crazy/awesome place.

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