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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Creature Feature: Therizinosaurus.

It is now widely known that dinosaurs had feathers. As such, many of our perceptions of nasty carnivores like Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor have been considered outdated and forever tarnished. It's hard to take Velociraptor seriously when it looks like a chicken.

It would, however, make a very good backup dancer in "Thriller." Or whatever Gaga comes out with next.

The weirdness of feathered dinosaurs does not stop there. Picture that raptor with a long neck like a sauropod. Add a dragging tail. Turn those killer claws on the raptor's feet into Freddy-esque talons on its forelimbs. Finally, make it huge, just to scare the sh*t out of the puny humans who would discover it eons later. If we have described it well enough, it should look something like this:

 

That is a real dinosaur. Or, well, it's a restoration of what was a real dinosaur. Its name was Therizinosaurus. Although there were many therizinosaurs, the one that gave its name to the genus, Therizinosaurus cheloniformis, was the biggest at 30-40 feet (making it one of the largest theropods - just sayin').  It was found, much like many feathered dinosaurs, in the Cretaceous Period of China. Small wonder that dragons receive such praise in that area.

 

Therizinosaurus literally means "scythe lizard." When this creature was first found, the only part paleontologists had were the massive claws later identified as this dinosaur's fingers. A single claw on this beast was around 3 feet long. If Jurassic Park revived one of these, it would probably skewer a few innocent spectators quite without meaning to.



Although those giant claws looked intimidating, if the skulls of other Therizinosaurs are any indication, T. cheloniformis was an herbivore. A massive, clawed herbivore. Those claws may have been used to slash predators, as a form of showing how well-endowed a male was, or for holding down foliage. Even feathers and being an herbivore cannot tone down the awesomeness of those claws. Remember what we've said about herbivores needing to be badass? Yes? All right then.

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