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Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Well-curved vertebra"
Length: 23 feet (7 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Middle Jurassic
Location: Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, UK

One of the largest predators of its time, Eustreptospondylus was a powerfully built ceratosaurian that displayed the usual theropod pattern of long, birdlike hindlimbs and quite short arms. the skull was moderately deep-unlike those of more lightly built ceratosaurians such as Dilophosaurus and Coelophysis-but it lacked the prominent horns of the larger, and later, Ceratosaurus. Although not closely related and somewhat smaller, Eustreptospondylus was similar in its proportions to the more widely known carnosaur Allosaurus.

A number of herbivorous dinosaurs are known from the same habitat, including early kinds of ankylosaurs (sarcolestes), stegosaurs (Lexovisaurus), and the sauropods Cetiosaurus and Cetiosauriscus. Eustreptospondylus presumably preyed on plant-eaters smaller than itself, such as the ankylosaurs and stegosaurs, but it may also have attacked the larger cetiosaurs.

Eustreptospondylus is known mostly from a single fragmented, but well-preserved, skull and skeleton that were discovered in the mid-19th century in Oxfordshire, England. Some bones that normally fuse in adult theropods, such as the postfrontal and postorbital in the skull, and the sacral vertebrae, remain unfused in this individual, so it is thought to have been immature when it died. For many years, this was the best-known of the large carnivorous dinosaurs from the whole of Europe.

Before many complete dinosaur skeletons were known and paleontologists began to realize their sheer diversity, nearly all the remains of large Jurassic carnivores in Europe were assumed to belong to Megalosaurus, which was one of the first dinosaurs to be named. It was more than a century-not until 1964-before Dr. Alick Walker recognized inconsistancies with other megalosaur material and the "Megalosaurus" skeleton from Oxford was finally given a new name, Eustreptospondylus. As well as this skeleton, some limb bones from another site are included in the same species.

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