Torvosaurus is a genus of carnivorous megalosaurid theropod dinosaurs that lived approximately 153 to 148 million years ago during the later part of the Jurassic Period in what is now Colorado and Portugal. It contains two currently recognized species, Torvosaurus tanneri and Torvosaurus gurneyi.
In 1979 the type species Torvosaurus tanneri was named: it was a large, heavily built, bipedal carnivore, that could grow to a length of about 10 m (33 ft). T. tanneri was among the largest carnivores of its time, together with Epanterias and Saurophaganax (which could be both synonyms of Allosaurus). Specimens referred to Torvosaurus gurneyi were initially claimed to be up to eleven metres long, but later shown to be smaller. Based on bone morphology Torvosaurus is thought to have had short but very powerful arms.
The genus name Torvosaurus derives from the Latin word torvus, meaning “savage”, and the Greek word sauros (σαυρος), meaning “lizard”. The specific name tanneri, is named after first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Nathan Eldon Tanner. Torvosaurus gurneyi is dedicated to the paleoartist James Gurney, creator of the Dinotopia series of books. Torvosaurus was described and named by Peter M. Galton and James A. Jensen in 1979 and the type species is Torvosaurus tanneri.
Fossilized remains of Torvosaurus have been found in North America and Portugal. In 1971, Vivian Jones, of Delta, Colorado (USA), in the Calico Gulch Quarry in Moffat County, discovered a single gigantic thumb claw of a theropod. This was shown to James Alvin Jensen, a collector working for Brigham Young University. In an effort to discover comparable fossils, Vivian’s husband Daniel Eddie Jones directed Jensen to the Dry Mesa Quarry, where abundant gigantic theropod bones, together with Supersaurus remains, proved present in rocks of the Morrison Formation. From 1972 onwards the site was excavated by Jensen and Kenneth Stadtman. The genus and the type species T. tanneri were named and described in 1979 by Peter Malcolm Galton and Jensen. In 1985 Jensen could report a considerable amount of additional material, among it the first skull elements. The fossils from Colorado were further described by Brooks Britt in 1991.
Torvosaurus was a very large predator, with an estimated maximum body length of 10 metres (33 ft) and mass of 3.6–4.5 tonnes (4–5 short tons) for both T. tanneri and T. gurneyi, making Torvosaurus among the largest carnivores of the Jurassic. Claims have been made indicating even larger sizes. The synonymous Edmarka rex was named thus because it was assumed to rival Tyrannosaurus rex in length and weight. Likewise “Brontoraptor” was supposed to be a torvosaur of gigantic size. The T. gurneyi specimens from Portugal initially prompted larger size estimates to be made. In 2006 a lower end of a thighbone, specimen ML 632, was referred to Torvosaurus sp. and later to T. gurneyi. This specimen was initially stated to indicate a length of 11 m (36 ft). Applying the extrapolation method of J.F. Anderson, correlating mammal weights to their femur circumference, resulted in a weight of 1930 kilogrammes. However, revised estimates performed in 2014 suggested a slightly smaller total body size for this specimen, of about 10 m (33 ft). Among the differentiating features between T. gurneyi and T. tanneri are the number of teeth and size and shape of mouth. While the upper jaw of T. tanneri has more than 11 teeth, that of T. gurneyi has less.