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MEG - uh - loh - SAW - rus

Todd Marshall. Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Great lizard"
Length: 39 feet (9 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Middle Jurassic
Location: England

Despite its very familiar name and its association with the early scientific study of dinosaurs, we know surprisingly little about Megalosaurus. William Buckland's description of Megalosaurus in the early 1820s was the first formal description of a nonavian dinosaur. It was based on a collection of fossil fragments-including parts of a leg, a shoulder, a hip, and a jaw-that gave only scant clues to the appearance of the living animal. Since then, remnants of a wide variety of large theropods-including Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus-have been mistakenly identified as belonging to Megalosaurus, and there are prbably still some misidentifications waiting to be corrected.

The available evidence-which relies largely on fossils of the jaws, teeth, and hip bones-suggests that Megalosaurus was a massive animal. Estimates of its length and height vary, though it probably grew 30 feet (9 m) long, stood up to 10 feet (3 m) high, and weighed about 1 ton (1.02 t). Like other theropods, it was probably a bipedal predator with a grasping, three-fingered hand. However, even this is still speculative, as no remnants of Megalosaurus's forelimbs have yet been found.

Huge, inward-pointing footprints found in trackways in southern England, and generally attributed to Megalosaurus, suggest that this bulky creature walked, probably slowly and rather clumsily, on two legs. Its powerful hinged jaws and its curved, serrated teeth indicate that it was a strong predator that prbably fed on a wide variety of animals, including large sauropods.

Megalosaurus's evolutionary relationships are still something of a mystery to paleontologists. The few analyses that have been done place Megalosaurus outside the groups that include the allosaurids and the coelurosaurs and closer to an assemblage that includes the spinosaurids (including Spinosaurus and Baryonyx). However, even this possible close relationship with spinosaurids has not yet been definitively established.

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