Therizinosaurus cheloniformis – What’s in a Name?

By | November 8th, 2009|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

How did Therizinosaurus cheloniformis get its Name?

One of our team members was asked the other day, why was Therizinosaurus cheloniformis so called, as they thought the Latin word chelonia was to do with turtles and tortoises.

Well, they are quite right chelonia or chelonians refers to the turtles, tortoises and their relatives.  They are a very ancient group of reptiles that are not that closely related to the Dinosauria.  The difficulties arose when the first fossils of this, until then, unknown and very unusual dinosaur were discovered and studied in 1948.  These first fossils consisted of some flattened ribs and parts of the large forelimbs with their huge flat and not that curved claws.  The scientists mistakenly ascribed these fossils to a huge turtle-like creature, and this is how a species name for Therizinosaurus came about.

An Illustration of the Bizarre Theropod Therizinosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of Therizinosaurus and other dinosaurs including feathered ones: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models.

It is difficult to believe that this strange herbivore belonged to the same sub-order as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor (Theropoda), but this is the case.

Therizinosaurus cheloniformis was formerly named and described by the famous Russian scientist Evgeny Aleksandrovich Maleev in 1954.  Although it had been realised by then that the palaeontologists were dealing with the fossilised remains of a dinosaur the specific name related to turtles was retained.