Behold the (possibly) mighty Deinocheirus

There is a tradition in archosaur palaeontology to refer to things we don’t know much about as ‘enigmatic’, and while an appropriate term much of the time, it is annoyingly overused. Basically if something is interesting and very incomplete it is left as ‘enigmatic’ which is often a euphemism for “I’m going to speculate wildly because there is no good evidence to contradict me” or “I’m not going to say anything about it at all”. Deinocheirus, in the public eye at least, sits firmly in the former camp and one can see why.

Deino 020

Recovered from Late Cretaceous rocks the specimen consists of just a partial pair of arms. Very, very large arms to be sure, and certainly a theropod but after that things get murky. Most researchers seem happy with the idea that these likely belonged to some form of giant ornithomimid it has previously suggested to belong to a theirizinosaur. As a result of that lack of information (a pair of partial arms, described quite sometime ago, and in Russian as I recall) Deinocheirus seems to have entered into popular palaeo folklore as the great unknown theropod, thought I would have thought something like Gigantoraptor and the presence of other giant therizinosaurs would have left it without much potential glamour even if a complete one ever turned up. Still, it IS rarely figured and I have Max Langer to thank for this image from Warsaw (though it’s not clear if this is the original or a cast).

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10 Responses to “Behold the (possibly) mighty Deinocheirus”


  1. 1 Mickey Mortimer 09/11/2009 at 9:22 am

    I think people want Deinocheirus to seem more enigmatic than it really is. Every cladistic analysis with ornithomimosaur synapomorphies has found it to be a member of that clade, and no synapomorphies with other clades have been suggested. The non-ornithomimosaur-like characters noted are always primitive and the resemblence to Therizinosaurus seems to be they’re both large Nemegt theropod arms.

    • 2 David Hone 09/11/2009 at 9:37 am

      “I think people want Deinocheirus to seem more enigmatic than it really is.”

      I thought was what I was saying? Maybe that wasn’t very clear – my writing was obviously too enigmatic… 😉

  2. 3 unique_stephen 09/11/2009 at 12:58 pm

    Enigmatic or not – I don’t want it to hug me.

  3. 4 nazuul 09/11/2009 at 2:48 pm

    It isn’t as “enigmatic” as even You describe it, David; You wrote:

    “Recovered from Late Cretaceous rocks the specimen consists of just a partial pair of arms.”

    Oh, not – we have some other elements to – just see the original publication by Halszka Osmólska and Ewa Roniewicz (which is in english, not in russian!): http://palaeontologia.pan.pl/Archive/1969-21_5-22_1-5.pdf

    In 1960’s we, Polish, are under soviet domination, but our paleontology was more like in US or western Europe!🙂

    Other stuff from Palaeontologia Polonica – with Polish-Mongolian Expeditions are here: http://palaeontologia.pan.pl/

    • 5 David Hone 09/11/2009 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks guys, I did not have a copy of the paper (hence my ignorance as to which language it was in) though while you have pointed me to a PDF, I would still argue that it’s not a well known paper! As I wrote the other day, it can be very hard to try and keep track of all of the literature nowadays – though new additions are always welcome.

  4. 6 Andrea Cau 09/11/2009 at 2:57 pm

    Dave wrote: “a pair of partial arms, described quite sometime ago, and in Russian as I recall”
    The original _Deinocheirus_ description (Osmo’lska and Roniewtz, 1969) is written in English. It’s also freely available at the Palaeontologia Polonica site (not Acta Palaeontologica Polonica).

  5. 8 Mark Wildman 09/11/2009 at 4:47 pm

    Michael Ryan, in his blog last year, revealed that they had rediscovered the original Deinocheirus quarry and that more elements had been recovered but I haven’t heard any more information than that and assume there is ongoing preperation and investigation.

    • 9 David Hone 09/11/2009 at 4:48 pm

      That would be my guess. As I’ve mentioned on here before, it can take *years* to get through preparation and descriptions before the inevitable blackhole of getting a paper published. It could be quite a while before we hear much sadly.

  6. 10 Francisco Gascó 09/11/2009 at 5:34 pm

    I hope these new elements are prepared and published as ‘soon’ as possible… it’s such an interesting specimen!🙂


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