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July 18, 2006

Scientists embrace the Thagomizer

thumbnail of Gary Larson's thagomizer cartoon

You ever wonder what that thing with all of the pointy spikes on the end of a Stegosaurus is called? Paleontologists needed to come up with an agreed upon term for it, and (as reported in New Scientist), it looks like they adopted thagomizer, in honor of a cartoon that Gary Larson drew back in 1982. In the cartoon a caveman is giving a lecture on the Stegosaurus, saying...

"Now this end is called the thagomizer, after the late Thag Simmons."

You can see the cartoon on Wikipedia.

There's no official governing body for dinosaur anatomical nomenclature (the way there is for, say, the names of newly discovered moons), but the term thagomizer is being used in journal articles, in dinosaur reference books, and (coolest of all) on the sign next to the Smithsonian Institution's stegosaur fossil display.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at July 18, 2006 08:37 PM