Today is Gary Larson’s 62nd birthday. Gary, if you are reading this, many happy returns of the day to you.
For the rest of you, I want to talk about something amazing that involves Gary Larson, his comic strip “The Far Side”, and paleontology.
If you are a Far Side fan like me, you’ll remember this comic:
The comic reads, “Now this end is called the thagomizer… after the late Thag Simmons.”
I’m not going to explain why this is funny (it is), but I am going to tell you something funny that happened after this comic was published.
By chance, paleontologist, Ken Carpenter, of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, saw the comic and used the term “Thagomizer” when describing a fossil at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting in 1993.
Since then, Thagomizer has become the informal anatomical term referring to the arrangement of four spikes on the tail of a dinosaur and has been used by other illustrious sources, like the BBC.
The thing that amazes me in all of this is that Larson, a cartoonist, has influenced the study of paleontology by doing nothing more than pulling a twisted idea out of his head and putting it down on the page.
I can think of few things more amazing than having something that I have created influence someone else. I can only aspire to follow in such footsteps.
My hat goes off to you Mr. Larson. Thank you for your contributions to the multiple worlds of comics, books, and paleontology.