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James Farlow is looking at mastodon bones

Farlow honored with named fossil

By Blake Sebring

November 21, 2023

James Farlow, an emeritus professor of geology and adjunct professor of biology at Purdue University Fort Wayne, received a very nice compliment recently when long-time international colleagues named a fossil after him—Farlowichnus rapidus  

A group of Italian and Brazilian paleontologists working in Brazil on fossilized dinosaur footprints came upon a trackway that looked different from what had been previously described.

“When that happens, you can write up an article giving it a formal name in the scientific literature,” explained Farlow. “When you do that, it’s not unusual to name the fossil after a colleague from around the world they want to recognize, and they chose me.”

The Farlowichnus rapidus was named by Guiseppe Leonardi, Marcello Adorna Fernandes, Ismar de Souza Carvalho, Julia Beatrice Schutzer, and Rafael Costa da Silva in an academic article published online in the journal Cretaceous Research. It is scheduled to run in the January print edition.

There’s already an article on Wikipedia about the find, which says Farlowichnus rapidus were small, rapid theropods—carnivorous dinosaurs—whose footprints were found near Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Farlow had worked on a book with Leonardi and another of the authors as an Indiana University Press editor during the 1980s. The authors notified Farlow of their decision recently after they had been working on the particular footprint fauna for many years. Farlow recalled how he had named some footprints for large plant-eating dinosaurs in Texas after the man who had discovered them, Roland T. Bird, by adding the scientific name Brontopodus birdi.

Farlow said his children and wife were excited about the news, and a few colleagues have reached out to offer congratulations.

“It happens often enough that in the grand scheme of things, it’s not outstandingly unusual,” Farlow said. “I thought it would be nice if somebody sometime named something after me, but I can’t say I seriously coveted it. It would be very gauche to name something after yourself.”