Sunday, July 14, 2013

Torvosaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

Today's creature was inspired to do by Gary and I's recent trip over to New Mexico working with the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum.  In there they have a beautiful skeletal mount of the huge late Jurassic predatory dinosaur, Torvosaurus tanneri

Torvosaurus lived about 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic and its bones have been unearthed in Western United states and in Portugal (Europe and North America weren't separated by an ocean back then, remember).  From head to tail it measured about thirty six feet and would have been amongst the largest, most formidable meat eaters of its time (rivaled only by Saurophaganax).

Life reconstruction of Torvosaurus by Christopher DiPiazza

Looks wise, Torvosaurus is a bit difficult to place at first.  Its head somewhat resembles that of a Tyrannosaurid but it has three powerful claws on its hands instead of two.  In fact, after detailed examining of its skeletal anatomy, Torvosaurus was placed in a family called Megalosauridae, and is most closely related to the also more famous, Megalosaurus.

Torvosaurus Skeletal mount on display at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum in New Mexico.

One of the places that Torvosaurus once called home is now referred to as the Morrison Formation in the western United States.  This is an area where a huge amount and variety of fossils from the late Jurassic have been uncovered.  Many famous dinosaurs lived here including the long-necked sauropods, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Barosaurus and Camarasaurus, other plant eaters like Stegosaurus, Camptosaurus and Dryosaurus and predators like Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Ornitholestes and of course, Torvosaurus.  Out of all of the meat eaters, Torvosaurus is the biggest.  Ironically it is also the least famous.  Don't get me wrong, I love Allosaurus, but why does it get so much attention and not the bigger, more powerful Torvosaurus?  Weird.

That's it for today.  Tune in on Thursday for when Gary and I start to share with you our trip to New Mexico.  We each found and helped prep a whole bunch of awesome fossils from the late Triassic!  As always feel free to comment below or on our facebook page.


Chure, Daniel J.; Litwin, Ron; Hasiotis, Stephen T.; Evanoff, Emmett; and Carpenter, Kenneth (2006). "The fauna and flora of the Morrison Formation: 2006". In Foster, John R.; and Lucas, Spencer G. (eds.). Paleontology and Geology of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin, 36. Albuquerque, New Mexico: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. pp. 233–248.

Mateus, O., Walen, A., and Antunes, M.T. (2006). "The large theropod fauna of the Lourinha Formation (Portugal) and its similarity to that of the Morrison Formation, with a description of a new species of Allosaurus." New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin, 36.

 Mateus, O., & Antunes, M. T. (2000). Torvosaurus sp.(Dinosauria: Theropoda) in the late Jurassic of Portugal. In I Congresso Ibérico de Paleontologia/XVI Jornadas de la Sociedad Española de Paleontología (pp. 115-117).

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