Jaw fragments and a few other bones found in Portugal provide evidence for a new dinosaur species, the largest terrestrial predator ever to be discovered in Europe.
When paleontologists originally uncovered the bones in the Lourinhã Formation of Central West Portugal several years ago, they thought they belonged to Torvosaurus tanneri. That species has only been found in North America, though several bones belonging to the same genus have been reported in Portugal.
On closer inspection of that particular specimen’s upper jaw and a piece of tail vertebra (red, in reconstruction below), Christophe Hendrickx and Octávio Mateus from Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal believe that they belong to a previously unknown dino. "We put it all together and thought, 'Hold on, this is not actually the same thing as in North America,'” Mateus tells New Scientist. They suggest calling the new species Torvosaurus gurneyi.
T. gurneyi had blade-shaped teeth that were nearly four inches long. The researchers estimate that the animal reached over 32 feet and probably weighed around four or five tons. That means T. gurneyi could very well be one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs from around 150 million years ago during the Jurassic.
One of the main differences between the North American T. tanneri and this new, European T. gurneyi is the number of teeth in the upper law: T. tanneri had 11 or more and T. gurneyi had fewer than 11. Also, the shape and structure of their jaw bones were different.
The duo named the new species after James Gurney, the author and illustrator of the "Dinotopia" book series, Los Angeles Times reports. "James Gurney is an excellent paleoartist and amazing pedagogue in the world of art," Hendrickx says.
With a skull that’s nearly four feet long, T. gurneyi was Europe’s biggest Jurassic land predator -- easily several feet longer than Allosaurus fragilis, who lived in Portugal around the same time. Our friends Tyrannosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus from the Cretaceous of North America and Africa, respectively, were bigger -- and about 80 million years later. "When the first T. rex walked on land, this was already a fossil," Mateus adds.
The work was published in PLOS One this week.
Images: 2014 Hendrickx, Mateus under creative commons