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.
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!
- 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.
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 Westfalen. 93: 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 ONE. 9 (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