Dinosaur fossil unearthed in Portugal was Europe's largest land predator

It was one of the biggest, scariest dinosaurs that ever roamed the Earth, a giant predator that prowled Europe millions of years ago.

Two scientists in Portugal announced on Wednesday that they have identified the largest carnivorous dinosaur ever found in Europe, a 33-foot-long brute called Torvosaurus gurneyi that was the scourge of its domain in the Jurassic Period, some 150 million years ago.

Remains of the new species were unearthed in Portugal by an amateur fossil hunter in 2003 in an area known as the Upper Jurassic beds.

The fossils were originally thought to belong to the North American species Torvosaurus tanneri, but experts soon realized that the shin hone, upper jawbone, teeth and partial tail vertebrae were of a different, previously unknown species.

T. gurneyi were up to 10 meters long and weighed 4 or 5 tons. One of the main differences between this dinosaur and its American counterpart is the number of teeth: the newly discovered species has fewer than 11 teeth, while T. tanneri has 11 or more. The size and shape of its mouth was also different.

"This is not the largest predatory dinosaur we know. Tyrannosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, and Giganotosaurus from the Cretaceous were bigger animals," study co-lead Christophe Hendrickx said in a statement. "With a skull of 115 cm, Torvosaurus gurneyi was however one of the largest terrestrial carnivores at this epoch, and an active predator that hunted other large dinosaurs, as evidenced by blade sharp teeth up to 10 cm."

Hendrickx and co-author Octavio Mateus are based at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Museu da Lourinhã. The study is published in the online journal PLOS One.


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