A new species of dinosaur has been discovered in Portugal, which is believed to be the largest terrestrial predator from Europe.
Scientists discovered bones belonging to what they believed to be Torvosaurus tanneri, a species from North America. Closer inspection of a shin bone, jawbone and partial tail vertebrae, discovered north of Lisbon, suggested however that the animal may warrant the new species name Torvosaurus gurneyi.
It has been estimated to measure up to 10 metres long and weigh four to five tonnes. The head of Torvosaurus gurneyi measured 1.15 metres from front to back, with four inch blade-shaped teeth. This indicates the dinosaur may have been at the top of the food chain in the Iberian Penninsula around 150 million years ago. It is thought to be one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs from the Jurassic period.
The number of teeth in the carnivorous creature, as well as the size and shape of the mouth, may differentiate the European and the American Torvosaurus.
The fossil of the upper jaw of Torvosaurus tanneri has around 11 or more teeth, while Torvosaurus gurneyi has fewer than 11. The mouth bones also have a different shape and structure.
The new dinosaur is the second species of Torvosaurus to be named. The research was published in the online journal PLOS ONE by co-authors Christophe Hendrickx and Octavio Mateus from Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Museu da Lourinha.
Hendrickx saide: "This is not the largest predatory dinosaur we know. Tyrannosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus and Giganotosaurus from the Cretaceous were bigger animals."
He added: "With a skill of 115cm, 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 10cm."
Fossil evidences of closely related dinosaurs suggest that this large predator may have already been covered with proto-feathers. Recently described dinosaur embryos from Portugal are also ascribed to the new species of Torvosaurus.
Thomas R. Holtz Jr, a vertebrate palaeontologist from the University of Maryland, has described the new dinosaur as a "big-bruiser predator" in the National Geographic. According to Holtz, Torvosaurus gurneyi would have used brute force instead of speed or surprise to take down its victims.