Europe’s answer to T-Rex sees scientists looking seriously at Lisbon

Palaeontologists are honing in on the area around Lisbon after the momentous discovery, quite by chance, of an impressive new species of meat-eating dinosaur, almost as big, bad and ugly as the T-Rex.
Torvosaurus gurneyi was discovered by two young palaeontologists carrying out field studies in the Lourinhã formation, on the west coast of Portugal, north of Lisbon.
At first, Octávio Mateus, 39 and French-Belgian Christope Hendrickx, 31, thought they had simply discovered new bones of a Torvosaurus tanneri – a similar type of large predator that is known to have lived in the Rocky Mountains of America during the Jurassic Period.
But then they noticed various ‘differences’, and thus came the realisation that they had discovered a whole new species – the largest ever to have roamed the Iberian Peninsula.
In honour of James Gurney, the Californian illustrator who has produced the fantastical books Dinotopia, the scientists named their find Torvosaurus gurneyi, and the news was published this week in online science magazine Plos One.
Describing their discovery as one that would have stood squarely at the top of the food chain 150 million years ago, Mateus and Hendrickx say Torvosaurus gurneyi would have stood around 10 metres high, weighing an impressive five tons.
Not involved in the research, University of Kansas palaeontologist David Burnham hailed the discovery as a “game changer” in terms of how scientists think of the Jurassic food chain and the “interactions and connections” between North America and Europe.
For Hendrickx, a young scientist whose passion for dinosaurs began at the age of six, the discovery was “a dream come true”, he told National Geographic Magazine.
Indeed, he is ready to study more fossils from Portugal, as they could “yield even more dinosaurs”, he said.
All he has to do, he quipped, is “convince” his supervisor. The study was led by the New University of Lisbon. In addition to the bones unearthed from a dig at Praia Vermelha, the palaeontologists believe they have also found embryo fossils from the same species.
Photo: Reconstruction of the Torvosaurus gurneyi in lateral view
Photo taken from www.plosone.org