New Dinosaur Species Discovered by Accident in Portugal

dinosaurA dinosaur discovery in Portugal has been ruled as a new species. It turns out that the T-Rex was not the only meat-eating giant that roamed the earth during the Jurassic period. Found by accident in Lisbon, the Torvosaurus gurneyi could be the largest dinosaur known to Europe at this time.

Scientists accidentally came across a set of dinosaur bones in the Lourinha Formation, just north of Lisbon, Portugal. The dinosaur remains were originally thought to belong to Torvosaurus tanneri, which is a similar creature that once lived in the Rocky Mountains of North America. The characteristics, however, suggest that they belong to a new species of dinosaur. The study was published in PLOS ONE on March 5.

dinosaurOnce the scientists began studying the remains, they realized the clear differences between them and the Torvosaurus tanneri. They had a partial tail bone, upper jawbone, a different shin bone and a different amount of teeth. The Torvosaurus gurneyi had fewer than 11 teeth, unlike the Torvosaurus tanneri, giving it a mouth of a different shape and size. Differences may have been more identifiable when the dinosaurs were living. Perhaps they had different colors, diets or behavioral characteristics.

A co-author of the study and a Ph.D. student at the New University of Lisbon, Christophe Hendrickx, accidentally found the bones when studying the Torvosaurus tanneri. He said that the new dinosaur species was not the largest to ever roam the earth, but it is notable the biggest dinosaur found in Europe so far. Having the massive skull, it was likely “one of the biggest terrestrial carnivores at this epoch, and an active predator that hunted other large dinosaurs,” Hendrickx said.

Torvosaurus gurneyi is named after James Gurney, known for his illustrations in the book series Dinotopia. They belonged to a group of meat-eating dinosaurs called the megalosaurus. Though somewhat smaller than the T-Rex, they most closely resemble them and share similar features.

dinosaurThe Torvosaurus gurneyi is thought to have roamed the earth 150 million years ago, alongside the mighty T-Rex. The new dinosaurs are thought to be 33-feet-long and weigh approximately four to five tonnes. Their bodies resemble that of a T-Rex, with strong hind legs, short arms with sharp nails and razor-sharp teeth that were four inches long. They were definitely near the top of the food chain.

Knowledge of another big predator that existed during the Jurassic Period could change future studies of dinosaurs and challenge previously held beliefs. David Burnham, a paleontologist from the University of Kansas, calls it a “game changer.” Given the estimated size of the Torvosaurus gurneyi, it would have been big enough to attack small sauropods. It also shows that similar dinosaur species existed across continents.

In addition to the bones they have now identified, scientists believe they have also found embryos from the same area that belong to the newly discovered dinosaur species.

The new dinosaur species that was discovered in Portugal, quite accidentally, was certainly one to be feared. The Torvosaurus gurneyi was every bit as strong as the T-Rex. The study shows that the characteristics of the dinosaur resemble a North American counter-part, though they vary in some ways. Hendrickx has expressed interest in further studying the area in Lisbon in hopes of finding more dinosaur species.

By Tracy Rose

Sources:

National Geographic
Belfast Telegraph
New Scientist
AFP

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