Tyrannosaurus Rex tends to take the name for “king of the dinosaurs.” Contrary to popular belief, Tyrannosaurus Rex was not necessarily the dino king we tend to make him out to be. There were many other carnivorous dinosaurs comparable in size and strenth. In recent news, a team of researchers unearthed the largest carnivore dinosaur in Europe. The dinosaur takes the name Torvosaurus gurneyi and spans roughly 32 feet in length. Torvosaurus gurneyi likely occupied the late Jurassic Period, roughly 150 million years ago. Researchers are describing the dinosaur as Europe’s own Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Fossilized remnants of the archaic beast were first excavated in 2003 and mistaken to be a different type of dinosaur known as Torvosaurus tanneri. Torvosaurus tanneri was originally discovered in North America. When the Earth was younger, all of the continents used to be fused together into one “mega continent” known as Pangaea. As a corollary of continental drift and the passage of time, Pangaea gradually cracked or “split” into distinct continents. Since North American and Europe used to be fused into one, it is unsurprising that some dinosaurs are entombed in both continents.
Upon close examination of the dinosaur’s upper jaw, researchers found that it did not match the same jaw lining as its sister dinosaur, Torvosaurus tanneri. The researchers realized that they had discovered an entire different species of dinosaur and dubbed it Torvosaurus gurneyi. Torvosaurus is Latin for “savage lizard.” Torvosaurus gurneyi weighed 2.5 to 3.6 tons, had razor-sharp teeth approximately 10 centimeters long, muscular arms, a robust jaw line, and the relics of primitive feathers.
Scientists have long believed that birds evolved from dinosaurs. There are a variety of genetic, physiological and anatomical similarities between the two species. Yet understanding what purpose intermediate feathers might have served is not well understood. Clearly, Torvosaurus gurneyi was too large to use its primitive feathers for flight. Some scientists have proposed the first stages of feathers may have been used for thermal regulation or to appear larger to prey. Other scientists propose early feathers may have been used by lizards that lived in canopies to help them glide from one tree to the next.
Torvosaurus gurneyi resembles the Tyrannosaurus Rex. So why was it so big? The terrain that Torvosaurus gurneyi occupied was flowered with giant herbivores, such as long-necked sauropods. These large herbivores could support the existence of small, medium and large carnivores as prey. Given Torvosaur gurneyi’s size, it did not likely rely on its speed to capture prey. Rather, the extinct lizard likely relied on the brute force of its jaw to capture prey.
Torvosaurs gurneyi is the largest dinosaur yet known to have populated the European continent. Yet is the keyword. There are always new fossils waiting to be found. Unearthing Tovosaurus gurneyi is a goldmine for paleontologists, since large dinosaurs do not fossilize as well as smaller dinosaurs. If it were not for fossils, these extinct wonders might as well have never existed. Although Tyrannosaurus Rex remains the most popular household dinosaur name, in terms of size, one fact remains: The Jurassic period has a new player in town.
By Nathan Cranford