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Megalosaurus

Megalosaurus is a genus of gigantic meat-eating dinosaurs that existed in Europe about 181 to 166 million years ago.

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Scientific Classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Reptilia
Clade Dinosauria
Order Saurischia
Suborder Theropoda
Family Megalosauridae
Subfamily Megalosaurinae
Genus Megalosaurus
Species M. bucklandii

Quick Facts File

Pronunciation Meg-ah-low-sore-uss
Name meaning Big Lizard
Geological Time Period Middle Jurassic
Size 9 meters (30 ft) long; 3 meters (10 ft) tall
Weight 1.1 ton
Location France, Portugal, Southern England
Diet Carnivore
Birth type Eggs
Locomotion Bipedal

Physical Description

While the Megalosaurus had short forearms with sharp claws that were used for hunting, they stood and walked on their powerful hind legs, which helped them in running quickly. They had a large head with powerful jaws consisting of sharp, serrated teeth that could be replaced when lost or broken just like the contemporary sharks. Their cervical vertebrae suggest that they had a flexible neck whereas their massive tail aided in balancing their huge body.

History and Discovery

Believed to be the first dinosaur described by the scientists, the fossil of Megalosaurus was first discovered in 1676 when a fragment of its femur was found in a limestone quarry at Cornwell by Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England.

The fossil was sent to Robert Plot, the first curator of the Ashmolean Museum and professor of chemistry at the University of Oxford. He primarily concluded that the thigh bone must belong to either a war elephant or a giant human referred to in the Bible.

In 1763, the fossil bone was again described by Joshua Brooke who named it ‘Scrotum Humanum’ due to its human testicle-like appearance. Although the bone was lost, its depiction is elaborate enough to help the researchers identify it as a femur of Megalosaurus.

William Buckland, Professor of Geology at Oxford acquired few more pieces of Megalosaurus fossil, identifying the organism as some giant animal related to the Sauria, which means lizard.

In 1827, paleontologists assigned the species its scientific name Megalosaurus bucklandii in honor of Mr. William Buckland.

Diet and Behaviour

The mighty Megalosaurus preyed on herbivorous dinosaurs like Sauropods. Hunting was easy for them since they lived in a tropical habitat. They would either chase their prey over short distances or launch a surprise attack, mostly from the cover of a tall plant, just like the Allosaurs. They sometimes scavenged on carcasses of dead animals.

Megalosaurus vs. T Rex

Megalosaurus and T Rex may appear similar, but there are ample differences between them. T Rex existed in the Late Cretaceous Period whereas Megalosaurus lived during the mid-Jurassic era. T Rex scaled more in length and weight than its counterpart. The primary distinction was their range of distribution, as T Rex lived throughout North America while Megalosaurus was found in Europe.

Extinction

The exact cause of the extinction of Megalosaurus isn’t known yet, but it is believed that an asteroid strike or abrupt climate change might have triggered an extinction event that wiped out this dinosaur.

Interesting Facts

  • Megalosaurus were believed to be more intelligent than the other dinosaurs of their period.
  • They were sprinters and had the ability to accelerate quickly.
  • They were considered as a large hipped dinosaur and were therefore classified under Saurischia.

Published on December 9th 2016 by under Reptiles.
Article was last reviewed on 13th September 2019.

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