Ferocious dino was European giant


Scientists in Portugal have identified what they think may have been the largest predator ever to roam across the European landmass.

Fossil bones from the dinosaur were pulled from a cliff at Praia da Vermelha just north of Lisbon.

Known as Torvosaurus gurneyi, this ferocious beast would have been some 10m in length and weighed perhaps 4-5 tonnes.

Its features are described in the latest edition of the Plos One journal.

It was a theropod – the kind of two-legged, meat-eating animal that everyone instantly recognises in something like Tyrannosaurus rex.

But T. gurneyi lived much earlier in time, in the late Jurassic – about 150 million years ago.

"We all know about T. rex, but Tyrannosaurus was a Cretaceous animal," explains co-author Prof Octavio Mateus from the New University of Lisbon.

"Our dinosaur was Jurassic. The difference in age is striking – it's 80 million years. So, when T. rex walked on Earth, Torvosaurus was already a fossil," he told BBC News.

Scientists have now unearthed a number of body parts belonging to Torvosaurus from Portugal's fossil-rich Lourinha rock formation. These specimens even include eggs and embryos.

But it is with this latest description of the dinosaur's upper-jaw that the researchers believe they can put the creature in its proper context.

They say the Portuguese animal is distinct from the Torvosaurus already known from North America.

That fossil "cousin", known as Torvosaurus tanneri, was found in rocks of similar age, from the so-called Morrison formation.

It means that both animals must have shared a common ancestor deeper in time, before the Atlantic Ocean was fully opened.

Written By: Jonathan Amos
continue to source article at bbc.com


  1. Based on phylogenetic analysis and on knowledge of where Torvosaurus and its relatives were found, it looks like this lineage of carnivorous dinosaurs were based in Western Europe (possibly also in Northern Africa), and invaded North America rather than vice versa. The fossils that were probably most closely related to Torvosaurus (those of the Megalosaurids like Megalosaurus, Dubreuillosaurus, Magnosaurus, and Piveteausaurus) occurred in France and England.

    The world would have looked something like this back then. This was before the formation of what at the time was probably no more than the Atlantic Strait, so a land bridge between America and Europe was quite feasible even after they separated. Given that Europe was largely an archipelago back then, it’s possible the Megalosaurids specialized in island ecosystems and could even swim between islands in search of food.

    Unfortunately, they left no surviving descendants beyond the Jurassic period, so perhaps they were outcompeted by the Allosaurids and their relatives that were already successful in North America. Keep in mind what usually happens when an island species meets a continental one, and it’s not hard to imagine one factor that led to their extinction.

    At least the Allosaurids didn’t survive the Jurassic either, but their more heavyweight relatives, the Carcharodontosaurids, surpassed them easily. The new “big theropods” like Giganotosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, and Acrocanthosaurus belong to this family, which produced more big carnivores than the Tyrannosaurids ever did. Still, give Torvosaurus and its relatives credit for setting the trend. They were big predators before it was cool.

    Also, Torvosaurus means “savage lizard”. Even if Allosaurus fragilis might have outcompeted it, that name rather puts the “different and fragile lizard” to shame. At least the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a nearby relative of the Megalosaurids, did it proud in the size department.

    Can you tell I like dinosaurs? 😛

  2. To try and claim my place in pedants corner I’d like to point out that the continent of Europe didn’t exist so this wasn’t a “European Giant”.
    Actually ignore this – its crossed the boundaries of pedantry and strayed into the territory of stupid comments.

  3. “We all know about T. rex, but Tyrannosaurus was a Cretaceous animal,” explains co-author Prof Octavio Mateus from the New University of Lisbon.

    then why was it in Jurassic Park? #CheckmateAtheists

  4. “why then Jurassic Park” for the movie?
    maybe they figured it would be easy to mistake Cretaceous with Cetaceans — and people would think they were going to a movie about whales, or ‘Flipper’.

    but – still cool info.

  5. If you read the book, it is stated that several of the species reproduced are not from the Jurassic. The place simply needed a name.

    Maybe you should not rely on movies for your scientific information.

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