Scientists in Portugal have discovered the fossils of a previously unknown 150 million-year-old dinosaur that may have been the largest European predatory land dinosaur from the Jurassic period.
According to authors Christophe Hendrickx and Octavio Mateus, Torvosaurus gurneyi — named after "Dinotopia" series author and illustrator James Gurney — was no joke. Weighing in somewhere between four and five tons, the new theropod was about 33 feet long with a four-foot long skull, weighed four to five tons and sported treacherous, four-inch-long teeth. "It was indeed better not to cross the way of this large, carnivorous dinosaur," said Hendricks, adding that the dinosaur "was obviously a super predator feeding on large prey like herbivorous dinosaurs."
T. gurneyi belonged to the megalosaur group, according to National Geographic, which means it shared some similarities with the notorious Tyrannosaurus rex:
Even though T. gurneyi was smaller overall than T. rex, the newfound animal had heavily muscled forearms with formidable claws, thick legs, and elongated skulls that allowed for a devastating bite... Unlike T. rex, which may have grabbed and crushed its prey to death with its jaws, T. gurneyi "probably would've taken a chunk out of its prey, sat back, and waited for it to die," said Lamanna.
Reuters explains that the fossils were first discovered by an amateur archaeologist in 2003 in the town of Lorinhã located about 45 miles north of Lisbon, and that fossilized embryos that most likely belonged to this species were discovered in Portugal last year. Hendrickx identified the fossils as belonging to a new species in the Torvosaurus genus while studying Torvosaurus tanneri bones as a Ph.D. student. The T. tanneri was first identified and named in 1979 (after LDS Church leader Nathan Eldon Tanner) after its fossils were discovered in Colorado in 1971. This actually makes more sense than it may seem, as North American and Europe were both part of the supercontinent Pangaea during the Jurassic period.
Researchers Christophe Hendrickx and Octavio Mateus published their findings in PLOS ONE, making the case that T. gurneyi is a distinct species from the similar T. tanneri. They note that the differences between the two species exist mainly in their jaws and tails.
Though the authors contend that this is the largest predatory dinosaur to be discovered in the region, other experts told National Geographic they have some reservations. Regardless, we welcome this new beast to the dinosaur family.