Raptorex Kriegsteini: the first Jewish dinosaur

By Simon Rocker, October 1, 2009

Many may be happy to be memorialised on a park bench plaque or a piece of synagogue curtain but Cecile and Roman Kriegstein of Palm Beach, Florida enjoy a more exotic tribute.

Their name has been given to a newly discovered species of dinosaur.

The University of Chicago bestowed the honour after being presented with the fossil by their son Henry, an eye surgeon and keen natural historian, who bought the remains from a dealer. His parents, both in their 80s and supporters of Yad Vashem, came from Poland and met in Germany after the war.

“I wanted to find a way to let their name live on in immortality,” Dr Kriegstein told the Chicago Tribune. “The fossil of this dinosaur has survived for 125 million years. My parents came close to not surviving. This name symbolically represents that they have survived despite great odds.”

Raptorex Kriegsteini was a smaller ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that struck terror into lesser creatures 60 million years later. But at eight-foot long, it was still not something you would want to find in your backyard.

Paul Sereno, a palaeontologist from the university, said: “The specimen was found in Northern China, taken out of the country and sold on the open market. It provides key information on how the biggest and perhaps among the best predators evolved.”

Raptorex was a “punk-size” precursor of the T-Rex, he explained, which was “basically our bodyweight. And that’s pretty staggering, because there is no other example that I can think of where an animal has been so finely designed at about a hundredth the size that it would eventually become”.

When scientists have finished studying the fossil, it will go to a collection in Inner Mongolia near where it was dug up. But as a souvenir, Dr Kriegstein has taken a life-size cast of the tyrannosaur to keep in his Massachusetts home.

Last updated: 4:18pm, October 1 2009