Friday, 24 April 2009

Dinosaurus from China

Tail Spikes
By Kathy Maher
ver. 1 - Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 3:38:36 PM

The Chinese stegosaur Tuojiangosaurus, like its well-known cousin Stegosaurus, had two rows of bony plates along its back and several stiletto-like spikes on its tail. Scientists have debated whether the spikes were used for display or in combat. A recent study of tail spikes found evidence of trauma-related damage, supporting the theory that the tail was used as a weapon.

This kind of spiky tail has become popularly known as the thagomizer, a reference to a 1982 Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson. Cavemen have been gathered for a lecture by a "professor," who points to a primitive visual aid, saying, "Now this end is called the thagomizer, after the late Thag Simmons," who evidently lost his run-in with the dino. (Of course, cavemen and dinosaurs didn't actually coexist. As Larson jokingly confessed in 1989: "Father, I have sinned—I have drawn dinosaurs and hominids together in the same cartoon.") The term has been used by paleontologist Kenneth Carpenter in a presentation at a 1993 scientific conference, in museum displays, and in popular books about dinosaurs. It has yet to appear in an official scientific journal, but perhaps it's only a matter of time. And where dinosaurs are concerned, there's all the time in the world.

Gary Larson's thagomizer cartoon. Everything Dinosaur.

Farlow, James O., and M. K. Brett-Surman, eds. The Complete Dinosaur. Indiana University Press, 1999.

Holtz, Thomas R. Jr., and Louis V. Rey. "Stegosaurs (Plated Dinosaurs)." Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages. Random House Books for Young Readers, 1997.

Larson, Gary. The Prehistory of the Far Side. Warner Books, 1992.

The Word: Thagomizer. New Scientist (July 8, 2006).

Other Resources
Tuojiangosaurus. Natural History Museum.

Carpenter, Kenneth. The Armored Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press, 2001.

Last updated: April 2, 2008

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