The Meaning of Torosaurus
The full-scale model in progress.
It is likely that the root “toro” in Torosaurus is from the Greek toreo (“perforate, pierce”) and not from the Latin torus (“protuberance, bulge”), nor is it from either the Latin (taurus) or Greek (tauros) words for “bull.” Moreover, according to the classicist Ben Creisler: “The non-classical Spanish word toro,
‘bull,’ is not the correct derivation of the name, though Marsh might
have used the similar spelling as a pun for a horned dinosaur.” Thus,
based solely on the parietal fenestrae in the frill, it seems that
“perforated lizard” is the correct meaning for the name Torosaurus.
For those of you who still may want to call the Peabody’s Torosaurus specimens “bull lizards,” hope is not lost. One leading expert on ceratopsians, Peter Dodson, suggests in his 1996 book The Horned Dinosaurs (Princeton University Press) that, based on their upright and divergent brow horns, the two Peabody specimens of Torosaurus are adult males. If true, they could, just like adult male cattle, elephants and moose, be called “bulls”!
Adapted from “What’s in a Name? The Meaning of Torosaurus,” by Daniel Brinkman, originally published in the Yale Peabody Museum’s November/December 2002 Explorer newsletter.