Tarchia. Wikimedia Commons


Tarchia (Chinese for "brainy"); pronounced TAR-chee-ah


Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 25 feet long and two tons



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large, armored head with slightly larger than usual brain; quadrupedal posture; sharp spikes lining back

About Tarchia

Here's more evidence that paleontologists have a good sense of humor: Tarchia (Chinese for "brainy") earned its name not because it was particularly smart, but because its brain was the tiniest smidgen bigger than those of comparable ankylosaurs, among the dumbest of all the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era. The trouble is, at 25 feet long and two tons Tarchia was also bigger than most other ankylosaurs, so its IQ was probably just a few points above that of a fire hydrant. (Adding insult to injury, it may well be the case that the type fossil of Tarchia actually belonged to a closely related genus of ankylosaur, Saichania, the name of which translates, equally ironically, as "beautiful.")

The ankylosaurs were among the last dinosaurs to succumb to the K/T Extinction 65 million years ago, and when you look at Tarchia, it's easy to see why: this dinosaur was the equivalent of a living air-raid shelter, equipped with massive spikes on its back, a powerful head, and a broad, flat club on its tail that it could swing at approaching predators. The tyrannosaurs and raptors of its day probably left it in peace, unless they were feeling particularly hungry (or desperate) and ventured to flip it onto its enormous belly for a relatively easy kill.

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Strauss, Bob. "Tarchia." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/tarchia-1092984. Strauss, Bob. (2020, August 26). Tarchia. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/tarchia-1092984 Strauss, Bob. "Tarchia." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/tarchia-1092984 (accessed February 6, 2023).