Largest predatory dinosaur in Europe named for ‘Dinotopia’ author


James Gurney, the author and illustrator of the “Dinotopia” book series, has had a dinosaur named after him.

And it happens to be a particularly cool dinosaur, too. Torvosaurus gurneyi is the largest predatory land dinosaur ever discovered in Europe, according to a new study in the journal PLOS One.

T. gurneyi was 32 feet long, a little shorter than the average school bus. It was a therapod that stood on a two legs, and it had razor-sharp teeth up to 4 inches long. Its skull was nearly 4 feet long.


It lived 150 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, and was probably at the top of the food chain.

“It was sizable but not the size of a T. Rex, which is what you would expect,” said Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, who 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 fossilized remains of T. gurneyi were discovered in the Lourinhã formation in Portugal, along the Atlantic Ocean and 43 miles north of Lisbon. The site has yielded a huge amount of dinosaur fossils -- similar in number and type to the Morrison formation in Utah.

At the time that T. gurneyi lived, this land was part of a large island that sat much closer to North America than it does today. It was a river plain -- arid in the summer and humid in the winter -- and home to a diverse array of dinosaurs, including long-necked sauropods, spiny ankylosaurs and the longer-spined stegosaurs, said Christophe Hendrickx, a doctoral candidate at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal, and the lead author of the paper. Living among the dinosaurs there would have been crocodiles, turtles, flying reptiles and small mammals.

When the T. gurneyi fossils were first discovered in 2003 they were thought to belong to a different type of Torvosaurus -- T. tanneri -- that has also been found in the United States. But Hendrickx and coauthor Octavio Mateus of the Museum of Lourinhã argue that T. gurneyi is its own species because it has fewer teeth than its North American cousin, and because its mouth bones have a different shape and structure.

In an email to the Los Angeles Times, Hendrickx said he named the dinosaur after Gurney as a tribute to his art.

“James Gurney is an excellent paleoartist and amazing pedagogue in the world of art,” he said.

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