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I created this piece for the March 2010 Therizinosaur Time Capsule Gallery at, a blog dedicated to illustrations of prehistoric life.

Therizinosaurs are a strange offshoot of the theropod dinosaurs—the group which includes Tyranosaurus, Deinonychus, Oviraptor and modern-day birds.  Although most Mesozoic theropods were carnivorous, Therizinosaurs were herbivores.  Their large, sickle-shaped claws  (which give the group its name:  Greek therizo meaning “to cut” or “to reap” and sauros meaning “lizard”) were probably used to pull down tree branches much like the claws of extinct giant ground sloths.  Particularly well-preserved therizinosaur fossil uncovered in China have impressions of primitive “protofeathers”—quill-like structures on the tail and forelimbs that were the precursor to the fully-developed feathers of modern-day birds.  To avoid confusion I should point out that, despite the possession of early feathers, Therizinosaurs aren’t the direct ancestors of birds.  Feathers were common to many theropod groups.   It’s commonly accepted that birds evolved from a dromaeosaur-like dinosaur (like the raptors from Jurassic Park).     

   The strange, geometrical-looking rocks in the background are formed from columnar basalt.  Basalt is formed from magma, and when it cools slowly enough, the molecules composing the fluid stone line up into a crystalline structure.  You can find particularly spectacular outcroppings of columnar basalt at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, at the Devil’s Postpile and Devil’s Tower in the American West and on the coast of Maui Hawai’i.



Therizinosaurs ©2010 John Meszaros.  All Rights Reserved