Fossil Friday: Torvosaurus

A thirsty Torvosaurus.
Torvosaurus enjoys a morning gulp of water, but what is he looking at across the river?

Species: Torvosaurus tanneri (Tor-voe-sore-us tan-er-eye)

What it means: Savage lizard

Other Species: T. gurneyi

Where I live: Western U.S.A.- The Morrison Formation / Portugal – The Lourinha Formation

When to find me: The Late Jurassic period, about 152 million years ago.

My favorite food: Meat! I’m a carnivore.

Torvosaurus was about 30 feet long.

My neighborhood: The Morrison Formation covers a huge expanse of land with a variety of different habitats teaming with life. Most of it was very much like the Serengeti of modern day Africa, only with prairies of drought-tolerant ferns and cycad relatives instead of grass. Dense woodlands of tall conifers like the modern araucaria, ginkgoes, and tree ferns would only lie in places of plentiful water such as the few permanent rivers. Other areas had far more sparse and shrubbier vegetation like the open woodlands of acacia trees in the Serengetti.

Life in this environment would’ve adapted to long months of harsh drought, followed by a few months of monsoon that flooded the rivers. Many of the larger herbivores may have migrated like the herds in Africa do today, while most carnivores stayed behind to feast on the dead and dying, or else become opportunistic hunters of less traditional diets for lean times, such as fish or turtles in the rivers.

A few of my neighbors: First let me share the walking buffet…

  • Long-necked sauropods like Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Barosaurus, Apatosaurus, Suuwassea, Supersaurus, Haplocanthosaurus, and Dystrophaeus.
  • Armored dinosaurs like Stegosaurus, Hesperosaurus, Mymoorapelta, and Gargoyleosaurus.
  • Two-legged ornithopods like Dryosaurus, Camptosaurus, and Nanosaurus

At the buffet I can meet all sorts of fellow carnivores, including dinosaurs like Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Saurophaganax, Marshosaurus, Stokesosaurus, Ornitholestes, Coelurus, Tanycolagreus, Elaphrosaurus, and Koparion.

Not to mention the countless lizards, crocodile relatives on land and water, mammals, frogs, turtles, fish, and all the pterosaurs flying in the sky!

Fun Facts:

  • Torvosaurus gets its name from torvus (Latin for savage/cruel/wild) + sauros (Greek for lizard or reptile). The American type species, T. tanneri, honors N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. T. gurneyi is the Portuguese species, and honors James Gurney, author and illustrator of the Dinotopia book series (and artist for National Geographic for many years).
  • Torvosaurus was one of the largest predators during the Jurassic Period.
  • The newest finds in the Ornatenton Formation in Germany are the oldest remains of Torvosaurus yet found. The Ornatenton Formation is from a Middle Jurassic environment (about 165 million years ago, give or take 3 million years), so there can be no doubt it must be a new species since so much time separates it from the North American and Portuguese Torvosaurus.
  • Torvosaurus was rare in it’s environment. Like a huge Lappet-faced vulture compared to the smaller, more common white-backed vultures on the African savanna. Smaller Allosaurus may crowd a carcass in a feeding frenzy, but they all step back when Torvosaurus approaches.

Fossil Finds: In North America, the remains of three partial individuals and many, many isolated teeth and fragments. Together we have an almost complete picture of Torvosaurus. In Portugal, the fossils are represented by most of the maxilla (teeth and upper part of the skull in front of the eyes), a few limb bones, a couple of vertebrae, and eggs with fossilized embryos inside. A fragmentary maxilla has recently been discovered in Germany and described in 2020.

References:

Oliver W. M. Rauhut, Achim H. Schwermann, Tom R. Hübner & Klaus-Peter Lanse. “The oldest record of the genus Torvosaurus(Theropoda: Megalosauridae) from the Callovian Ornatenton Formation of north-western Germany” (PDF). Geologie und Paläontologie in Westfalen93: 1–13.

Galton, Peter & Jensen, JA. (1979). A new large theropod dinosaur from the Upper Jurassic of Colorado. Brigham Young University Geology Studies. 26. 1-12. file:///C:/Users/Patricia/Downloads/37.1979b.BYUGS.GJTorvosaurus.pdf

Hendrickx, C.; Mateus, O. (2014). Evans, Alistair Robert (ed.). Torvosaurus gurneyi n. sp., the Largest Terrestrial Predator from Europe, and a Proposed Terminology of the Maxilla Anatomy in Nonavian Theropods”PLOS ONE9 (3): e88905. 

Foster, John. Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indiana University Press, 2007

“Torvosaurus.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torvosaurus

9 thoughts on “Fossil Friday: Torvosaurus

  1. Ah yes, the classic “water drips from his mouth as the mighty beast rests by a cool stream” scene! 😀 I really like the added backgrounds. Must be great practice!

    Torvosaurus is super cool! I like the vulture comparison you gave–it gives me a vivid mental picture of a bunch of Allosaurus crowding around the dinner table like vultures, before big Torvosaurus steps in. Sometimes it’s pretty funny to see the interaction between vultures and other scavenegers/predators in the wild, lol. 😛

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  2. I’m a little late, but might I say, it’s great to see Torvosaurus on the site. If I were to pick the name, it would definitely be Tanner, but it’s always up to your family for that. And go please check out the third batch of new CollectA figures and new batch of Safari Ltd. I would love to see an ornithischian next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you like it! Tanner would be my first choice too, considering the type species, but I do need some more females lol. My little girl told me I need more girl dinosaurs. 😀

      I must say, I’m quite excited to see a prehistoric fish in Collecta’s line-up this year! The Elasmosaurus and Mamenchisaurus look great too. I’m also excited for the new toob. I have the two existing prehistoric toobs, and I think I’ll have to add this new one to my collection 😀

      For Safari, I’m most excited about that Spinosaurus! The other models are nice too, but I have so many other ones that I totally missed out on over the past couple of years (like Allosaurus and the new Ichthyosaurus, where have I been all this time that I totally missed those!) that I need to catch up a bit before I get too excited for them. It’s nice to see Baryonix and Daspletosaurus getting some attention though! And yes, we need something like a Dryosaurus, or better yet, Kulindadromeus!

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  3. Thank you for posting this. Hooray for the Morrison Formation!

    I noticed that Torvosaurus has been getting A LOT of attention lately in the paleo-art sphere. How fortuitous! I just happen to be re-doing my earlier article on Torvosaurus and am presently engaged in doing some Torvosaurus themed artwork. It’s very slow-going though, as it is one of my over-detailed drawings that takes months to do. Stay tuned for further updates!

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    1. Thank you so much Jason, I’m glad you like it! The Morrison Formation is definitely one of my favorite formations, though it’s very difficult to choose. Learning more about the formations I’m featuring makes me like them more, and makes it difficult to choose a favorite lol!

      I’d love to see your Torvosaurus, please share a link when you post it so I don’t miss it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would love to see what you’ve got. From Anchiornis to Brachiosaurus to Cryolophosaurus to Darwinipterus to Eocaecilia to Fruitadens to Geosaurus to Huayangosaurus to Iridotriton to Jeholopterus to Kulindadromeus to Lufengosaurus to Mymoorapelta to Nannopterygius to Orientognathus to Plesiosaurus to Qinglongopterus to Razanandrongobe to Scutellosaurus to Torvosaurus to Uteodon to Volaticotherium to Wiehenvenator to Xiaotingia to Yinlong to Zuolong and the list goes on; there is a great diversity with the organisms of this period. Would love to see a collection of them in the future.

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