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Fossils Found in Portugal Belong to Largest Carnivore Dinosaur to Roam Europe

Mar 06, 2014 05:09 AM EST
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Researchers have found fossil remains of the largest carnivore dinosaur to roam Europe. The dinosaur- Torvosaurus gurneyi - is from the Late Jurassic period and was 33 feet long with razor-sharp teeth.

The bones were found by Christophe Hendrickx and Octavio Mateus from Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Museu da Lourinhã. They discovered the remains in Lourinha Formation near Lisbon, Portugal.

Torvossauro means "savage lizard," and, "gurneyi" honors the American James Gurney, according to a news release

T. gurneyi was the largest terrestrial carnivore to walk on Europe during the Jurassic epoch. Researchers said that at first glance the dinosaur looked something like the Tyrannosaurus rex - the famed carnivore that lived during the Cretaceous period.

"We all know about T. rex, but Tyrannosaurus was a Cretaceous animal," Mateus told BBC News "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."

Torvosaurus gurneyi, researchers said weighed around four to five tons and was a theropod.

Theropods were bipedal dinosaurs and were some of the largest hunters that roamed the earth. According to other researchers, some birds are actually descendents of non-flying theropods.

Researchers had previously believed that the newly-discovered bones belonged to another species of dinosaurs called Torvosaurus tanneri, which was found in North America.

However, skull and jaw analysis showed that the Portuguese T. gurneyi was different from its cousin T. tanneri that lived across the lake.

The research suggests that both T. gurneyi and T. tanneri shared a common ancestor that roamed on earth before the Atlantic Ocean came to be. "One hundred and fifty million years ago, Portugal was already separated from North America and this meant the mechanism of speciation could occur," Hendrickx told BBC. "And this is why we have a new species of Torvosaurus in Europe."

My, what big teeth you've got

Despite its enormous size, T. gurneyi wasn't the largest dinosaur to roam the Earth. That title goes to a plant-eating sauropod from Spain. Other Cretaceous-era giants included Carcharodontosaurus, Giganotosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, while some marine animals were larger than land dwellers.

However, T. gurneyi had large, blade-like teeth, making it a formidable hunter that ate small herbivore dinosaurs.

"With a skull of 115 cm, 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." said Christophe Hendrickx, according to Phys.org.

The study is published in the journal PLOS One.

See more images of the dinosaur, here

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