New Dinosaur Species Discovered: Ferocious T. Rex Cousin Was Europe's Largest Land Predator

By Josh Lieberman on March 6, 2014 12:58 PM EST

new dinosaur species
The newly named dinosaur species Torvosaurus gurneyi was Europe's largest land predator. (Photo: Christophe Hendrickx)

Say hello to Torvosaurus gurneyi, a newly identified Jurassic dinosaur which may have been the largest land predator in Europe. In a study published yesterday in PLOS One, scientists describe the five-ton, bus-sized dinosaur as similar to North American cousin Tyrannosaurus rex, with blade-shaped teeth, an elongated snout and even larger arms and claws.      

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"It was sizable but not the size of a T. rex, which is what you would expect," said Luis Chiappe of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. (Chiappe was not involved in the study.) "At the end of the day those predatory dinosaurs of the Jurassic were not as big as those in the Cretaceous. The very largest dinosaurs lived in the Cretaceous period."

The T. gurneyi fossils were discovered in 2003 in Lourinhã, Portugal, a fossil-rich region lush with vegetation during the Jurassic Period. Uncovered by an amateur paleontologist, the bones were first believed to belong to the North American species Torvosaurus tanneri. (North America and the Portugal location were much closer together 150 million years ago.) But the mouth bone discovered in 2003 has a different shape and structure than that of T. tanneri, and the teeth of T. tanneri are greater in number, suggesting that the 2003 find belongs to a new species.   

"This is not the largest predatory dinosaur we know. Tyrannosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus and Giganotosaurus from the Cretaceous were bigger animals," said study co-author Christophe Hendrickx. "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 shape teeth up to 10 cm."

In 2005, a clutch of dinosaur embryos were discovered at the Portugal site, and were later described in a 2013 study. The dinosaur embryos are among the oldest ever found, and have now been ascribed to T. gurneyi. 

T. gurneyi was named after "paleo-artist" James Gurney, the creator of the illustrated "Dinotopia" fantasy books, first published in 1992. "I discovered this book when I was a kid," said Hendrickx. "I wanted to honor this artist." Gurney told NBC News that he "was completely thrilled and honored and completely surprised" by the new dinosaur name.

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