For the 5th January (LJ | DW) swankyfunk asked about my favourite dinosaur. Everyone, of course, has a favourite dinosaur, I think it’s compulsory for being a human being. As a child, my favourite dinosaur was Protoceratops, but now I always answer with the same answer: Animantarx.
Animantarx is a nodosaur, one of the armoured dinosaurs related to Stegosaurus. I always feel nodosaurs and ankylosaurs get short shrift in the popular depiction of dinosaurs: they don’t appear in Jurassic Park (Well, they appear briefly in the third movie), the Ankylosaurus in Fantasia is asleep, and Spike in Land Before Time is a non speaking role. This is frankly a ridiculous move on behalf of the dinosaur publicity people, because ankylosaurs rock. They were huge animals covered in armor and spikes, and ankylosaurs (not nodosaurs, and sadly not Animantarx) had a whopping club on the end of their tails. They make stegosaurs look like lightweights.
Paleontologist R.S. Lull once said of ankylosaurs that they must have been an ‘animated citadel,’ and it is this phrase from which the name Animantarx derives – animus, living, tarx, fortress.
Animantarx was about 4.5 m long, and comes from the Cedar Mountain Formation in Utah, at a horizon where the fossils are somewhat radioactive. It was discovered by a retired radiology technician called Ramal Jones, using a radioactivity-detecting scintillation counter that makes it the first dinosaur to have been discovered remotely – with no surface exposure before excavation.
So there you have it – my favourite dinosaur is a radioactive, spike-covered ornithischian with a fantastic name.