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The 10 Strangest Dinosaur Names

The Weirdest, Wackiest, and Most Inappropriate Names Given to Dinosaurs

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Here's a little-known fact about dinosaur names: after long, weary months collecting bones out in the field, cleaning them in the lab with tiny toothpicks, and laboriously piecing them together for further study, paleontologists can be forgiven for occasionally giving strange names to the objects of their research. Here are the 10 dinosaurs with the weirdest, funniest, and (in one or two cases) most inappropriate names. (See also How Dinosaurs Are Named and The Greek Roots Used in Dinosaur Names.)

1. Colepiocephale

colepiocephale
Paleopedia

"Colepio" is the Greek root for "knuckle," and "cephale" means "head"--put them together, and you've got a dinosaur straight out of a Three Stooges episode. This "knucklehead" didn't earn its name because it was dumber than other herbivores; rather, it was a type of pachycephalosaur ("thick-headed lizard") that sported an excess of bone on top of its noggin. Read more about Colepiocephale

2. Drinker

edward drinker cope
public domain

It's easy to picture the tiny ornithopod Drinker staggering around the swamps of northern Africa, out on yet another endless Jurassic binge. Drinker wasn't a dinosaur alcoholic, though; rather, this herbivore was named after the famous paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope. Oddly, Drinker may or may not be the same dinosaur as Othnielia, which was named after Cope's arch-rival Othniel C. Marsh. Read more about Drinker

3. Anatotitan

anatotitan
Nobu Tamura

Dinosaur names always sound much more impressive in the original Greek than in English translation. That's especially true for Anatotitan, aka "giant duck," a huge, Cretaceous-period hadrosaur that possessed a prominent duck-like bill. Anatotitan's bill was much less supple than that of a modern duck, though, and this dinosaur almost certainly didn't quack (or call its enemies "dethpicable.") Read more about Anatotitan

4. Gasosaurus

gasosaurus
Royal British Columbia Museum

Okay, you can stop laughing now--Gasosaurus didn't keep other predatory dinosaurs at bay by farting at them. Rather, this theropod was named by its surprised discoverers, employees of a Chinese gas company. Gasosaurus weighed about 300 pounds, so yes, if burritos had been on the menu during the late Jurassic period, it might conceivably have been as toxic as your Uncle Milton. Read more about Gasosaurus

5. Irritator

irritator
Mariana Ruiz

After a long, hard day in the lab, paleontologists need a way to vent their pent-up frustration. Take Irritator, which was named by a, well, irritated researcher who wasted valuable time chipping away the plaster added to its skull by an overeager amateur. Despite its moniker, though, there's no evidence that this close relative of Spinosaurus was any more annoying than other theropods its kind. Read more about Irritator

6. Yamaceratops

yamaceratops
Nobu Tamura

If you're unfamiliar with the Buddhist deity Yama, you might be forgiven for believing that the small ceratopsian Yamaceratops was named after a sweet potato--making it the Mr. Potato Head of the Cretaceous period. Except for its name, though, Yamaceratops was a fairly unassuming dinosaur; its main claim to fame was that it lived in Asia tens of millions of years before its more famous North American descendant Triceratops. Read more about Yamaceratops

7. Piatnitzkysaurus

piatnitzkysaurus
National Museum, Prague

For sheer unpronounceability--not to mention Borscht-belt punchline value--no dinosaur rivals Piatnitzkysaurus, which was named by the famous paleontologist Jose Bonaparte after an eminent colleague. The South American Piatnitzkysaurus was similar to its northerly cousin, Allosaurus, with the exception that scientists don't say "gesundheit!" when they hear its name. Read more about Piatnitzkysaurus

8. Bambiraptor

bambiraptor
Oxford Mueum of Natural History

Reality check: Walt Disney's Bambi was a sweet, naive, animated deer who made fast friends with his fellow forest creatures. His namesake, Bambiraptor, was a fierce, deer-sized raptor that would just as soon have swallowed Thumper whole as challenged him to a race. It does seem appropriate, though, that the remains of Bambiraptor were discovered by a pint-sized tweener. Read more about Bambiraptor

9. Micropachycephalosaurus

micropachycephalosaurus
H. Kyoht Luterman

The current record-holder for Longest Dinosaur Name, Micropachycephalosaurus ("tiny, thick-headed lizard") was a wee, inoffensive creature that probably weighed as much as your average house cat. It's unknown whether this pachycephalosaur romped and cavorted with its pint-sized contemporary, Nanotyrannus ("tiny tyrant"), but you have to admit, it makes for an arresting image. Read more about Micropachycephalosaurus

10. Titanophoneus

titanophoneus
Nobu Tamura

Every now and then, paleontologists in need of grant money are inclined to, well, "oversell" their finds. Such appears to have been the case with Titanophoneus ("giant murderer"), a pre-dinosaur therapsid that probably weighed as much as a Great Dane. Titanophoneus was surely dangerous to other, less aggressive animals, but hey, "giant murderer?" Tyrannosaurus Rex would doubtless object. Read more about Titanophoneus

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