Lusovenator santosi: New Predatory Dinosaur Identified in Portugal

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

An artist’s impression of Lusovenator santosi. Image credit: Carlos de Miguel Chaves.

A team of paleontologists from Portugal and Spain has found fossil fragments from a new genus and species of carcharodontosaurian dinosaur.

The new dinosaur, scientifically named Lusovenator santosi, lived in what is now Portugal between 153 and 145 million years ago (Jurassic period).

The ancient predator was about 3.5 m (11.5 feet) long and 1 m tall (3.3 feet), and walked on two hind limbs.

It belongs to Carcharodontosauria, a large group of carnivorous theropod dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods in the clade Allosauria.

Lusovenator santosi as an early branching carcharodontosaurian allosauroid,” said team leader Dr. Elisabete Malafaia from the Universidade de Lisboa and the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia and her colleagues.

“It represents the oldest member of Carcharodontosauria defined in the Upper Jurassic of the ancient supercontinent Laurasia and extends the record of this group, which was already represented in the Lower Cretaceous of Europe.”

Selected elements of Lusovenator santosi and other carcharodontosaurs showing some of the features that clearly nest the new species within Carcharodontosauria: (A) Lusovenator santosi, right ilium in medial view; (B) possible carcharodontosaur from Tendaguru, right ilium in medial view; (C, D) Lusovenator santosi, right ischium in (C) proximal and (D) lateral views; (E, F) Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, left ischium in (E) proximal and (F) lateral views; (G, H) Lusovenator santosi, middle caudal vertebrae in (G) lateral and (H) dorsal views (I, J) Veteropristisaurus milneri, middle caudal vertebrae in (I) lateral and (J) dorsal views. Abbreviations: acdl – anterior centrodiapophyseal lamina, alr – anterior lateral ridge, ilc – iliac peduncle, pamr – preacetabular medial ridge, polr – posterior lateral ridge, sprl – spinoprezygapophyseal lamina. Scale bars – 100 mm (A-F) and 50 mm (G-J). Image credit: Malafaia et al, doi: 10.1080/02724634.2020.1768106.

The paleontologists described Lusovenator santosi from two specimens found in Portugal’s Lusitanian Basin.

One of the specimens is a 153-million-year-old partial skeleton of a juvenile individual from Praia de Valmitão, the locality of Ribamar and municipality of Lourinhã.

The second specimen is 8 million years younger, and belongs to a large-sized individual of Lusovenator santosi. It was collected at Praia de Cambelas, in the locality of São Pedro da Cadeira and municipality of Torres Vedras.

“Despite the great similarity in the theropod faunal composition, the recognition of a carcharodontosaurian allosauroid taxon provides a component of the Upper Jurassic Lusitanian Basin distinct from its contemporaneous Morrison Formation in North America,” the researchers said.

“The development of a terrestrial dispersal route connecting these landmasses after the late Tithonian (145 million years ago) could explain the absence of Carcharodontosauria in the diverse theropod faunas of the Morrison Formation and, additionally, their presence during the Early and Late Cretaceous of North America.”

“The new carcharodontosaurian theropod provides the first evidence for sympatry among allosauroid theropods in the Late Jurassic of Europe,” they said.

“Additionally, the discovery of Lusovenator santosi sheds light on a poorly known period of carcharodontosaurian history and adds important data to the knowledge of the early evolution of these allosauroids.”

paper on the discovery was published this month in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.


Elisabete Malafaia et al. A new carcharodontosaurian theropod from the Lusitanian Basin: evidence of allosauroid sympatry in the European Late Jurassic. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, published online July 10, 2020; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2020.1768106