What is a Thagomizer?

What is a Thagomizer?

Quite simply put a thagomizer is the informal name given to the spikes on a dinosaur’s tail.


For a very long time there was no real name for these spikes (typically 4-10 on a dinosaur tail, most notably the stegosaurus).
thagomizerIn 1982 that all changed when a cartoonist by the name of Gary Larson published a comic called “Far Side”.  The cartoon contained an image showing both people and dinosaurs together. In the image students were being taught that the spikes were called a thagomizer – named after the late Thag Simmons, who had supposedly met his match when up against the spikes (which in and of itself is totally inaccurate – humans and dinosaurs have never co-existed).

Despite the inaccurate context and joke, the term stuck and has now been adopted by scientists and museums as an anatomical point of reference.

The spikes are thought to have a defensive purpose should the animal be in a fight. However, there is not significant evidence to support this entirely.

Check out the links below if you’re interested in learning more

Smithsonian Magazine


Everything Dinosaur

The Natural World

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3 Responses

  1. Asa D Salas says:

    That brought back memories! I loved dinosaurs as a child, and actually knew what a thagomizer what 🙂

  2. Sariya says:

    Hey thank you for this post!
    It was quite interesting to read about what the thagomizer is and where the name came from, I haven’t heard of it before. 

    It does seem logical that the spikes on these animals were used in defence as seen in many animals today despite the lack of evidence. I like how scientist decided to keep the name too!

    Thanks again and have a great day!

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