Two paleontologists from Portugal have described a new species of giant dinosaur that lived in what is today Europe during the Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago.
Named Torvosaurus gurneyi in honor of the paleoartist James Gurney – creator of the utopic world of Dinotopia, the newly discovered prehistoric creature is the largest land predator known from Europe and one of the biggest predatory dinosaurs from the Jurassic period.
According to a study published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, fossilized bones of this dinosaur were unearthed from the Lourinha Formation near Lisbon, Portugal.
They were originally believed to be Torvosaurus tanneri, a dinosaur species that lived in what is now North America during Jurassic, 153 to 148 million years ago.
But closer comparison of the shin bone, upper jawbone, teeth, and partial tail vertebrae suggest to the paleontologists that it may be a previously unknown Torvosaurus species.
Torvosaurus gurneyi was about 10 m long and weighed 4-5 tons.
It had blade-shaped teeth up to 10 cm long, which indicates the dinosaur may have been at the top of the food chain in the Iberian Peninsula roughly 150 million years ago.
The number of teeth, as well as size and shape of the mouth, may differentiate the European and the American Torvosaurus.
The fossil of the upper jaw of Torvosaurus tanneri has 11 or more teeth, while Torvosaurus gurneyi has fewer than 11. The mouth bones have a different shape and structure.
“This is not the largest predatory dinosaur we know,” said lead author Dr Christophe Hendrickx from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and the Museu da Lourinha, Portugal.
“Tyrannosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, and Giganotosaurus from the Cretaceous were bigger animals.”
“With a skull of 1.15 m, Torvosaurus gurneyi was however one of the largest terrestrial carnivores at this epoch, and an active predator that hunted other large dinosaurs, as evidenced by blade shape teeth up to 10 cm.”
Fossil evidences of closely related dinosaurs suggest that this Torvosaurus gurneyi may have already been covered with proto-feathers.
Recently described dinosaur embryos from Portugal are also ascribed to this new Torvosaurus species.
Hendrickx C, Mateus O. 2014. Torvosaurus gurneyi n. sp., the Largest Terrestrial Predator from Europe, and a Proposed Terminology of the Maxilla Anatomy in Nonavian Theropods. PLoS ONE 9 (3): e88905; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088905