Largest Jurassic Predator? Meet Torvosaurus!

 

The title of largest Jurassic predator is up for grabs.  Torvosaurus certainly makes a great case for being the heaviest, and longest, of the known Jurassic giant-killers!

Originally named in 1979 by Galton and Jensen from material excavated at the Dry Mesa Dinosaur Quarry in western Colorado, the animal was an overnight sensation for here was a giant predator found amongst the bones of the longest dinosaur ever discoveredSupersaurus.  

Torvosaurus means "wild, savage, cruel lizard" and its massive teeth and huge claws certainly earn the moniker.  The teeth are some of the largest around short of Tyrannosaurus itself, rooted they measure over 8" in length with some possibly reaching 11" long (T. rex rooted teeth top out at 12").  Torvosaurus' teeth are long, serrated daggers jam-packed into a megalosaurid mouth.  

Torvosaurus tooth Fossil Crates

 

Torvosaurus, once described, started turning up all over the Morrison Formation, both in collections as well at new dig sites.  Edmarka and Brontoraptor are two examples of giant theropod dinosaurs that were once thought to be new dinosaurs, however they both are actually specimens of Torvosaurus.

Torvosaurus had gigantic toe claws.  One of the largest claws ever discovered in the Morrison Formation, taking a backseat only to the massive claws of Saurophaganax, was referred to Torvosaurus in the original description.

 

Torvosaurus hand claw FossiL Crates

Other giants vying for the title include the aforementioned Saurophaganax, which has its own unique history, much of which was spent being identified as an Allosaurus. Very little is known of Saurophaganax, a few vertebrae and a large femur.

Speaking of Allosaurus, Cope named Epanterias as a sauropod because of the giant size of the vertebrae, however it turns out they belong to a giant-sized Allosaurus that approaches, if not surpasses, that of Torvosaurus.  

Maddeningly, all of these animals are fragmentary, with bits of giant bone teasing us that there are monsters we know not existed.  A new skeleton of Torvosaurus, dubbed 'Elvis', should bring much light in the next few years to this animal.  The mount combines the Dry Mesa Dinosaur Quarry Torvosaurus material with that of Elvis, making a spectacular skeletal display!

 

Torvosaurus Dr. Brian Curtice

Dr. Brian Curtice and Torvosaurus tanneri on display at the Museum of Paleontology at Brigham Young University

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