|Name Meaning||“Moderate Spine Lizard”||Height||1.8 meters (6 feet)|
|Pronunciation||Met-ree-ah-can-foe-sore-us||Length||8 meters (26.2 feet)|
|Era||Mesozoic – Middle-Late Jurassic||Weight||1 ton (2,000 lbs)|
|Classification||Dinosauria, Saurischia & Theropoda||Location||USA (North America)|
Metriacanthosaurus is a genus of carnivorous dinosaurs that lived in Europe during the mid-Jurassic period, roughly 166 million years ago.
Its name, which means “moderately spined lizard,” refers to the vertebrae of this dinosaur which are taller than that of typical carnosaurs, like Allosaurus, but still lower than high-spined dinosaurs like Acrocanthosaurus.
Metriacanthosaurus belongs to the group of theropod dinosaurs, which includes famous species like Allosaurus but was not closely related to them.
It was first discovered in England in the early 20th century, and it is known from limited fossil remains.
The fragmentary nature of available fossil evidence for Metriacanthosaurus means there’s limited knowledge of the appearance and behavior of the Metriacanthosaurus.
However, based on comparison to its closest relatives, paleontologists have been able to speculate some of the attributes of this dinosaur.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the physical and ecological attributes of this dinosaur to better understand how it lived during the Jurassic period.
Metriacanthosaurus was a medium-sized dinosaur.
It measured about eight to nine meters (26 to 30 feet) in length and weighed about 1 tonne (2000 pounds).
It had a robust build typical of allosaurid dinosaurs and walked on two powerful hind legs. Its forelimbs were shorter and carried three-fingered hands.
One of the notable features of Metriacanthosaurus is the neural spines on its vertebrae.
While not as pronounced as the plates or spines found on some other dinosaurs, these spines were moderately developed and gave the dinosaur its name.
The spines ran along the back all the way to the tail, adding some unique texture to its appearance and probably aiding the dinosaur with defense or display purposes.
The neural spines probably supported a low hump similar to that of Acrocanthosaurus, which lived in North America during the early Cretaceous.
Metriacanthosaurus is only known from a partial postcranial skeleton, so we can only speculate what the skull of this dinosaur looked like.
Scientists think Metriacanthosaurus had a large head with a mouth filled with sharp, serrated teeth.
The teeth were specialized for slicing and tearing flesh, suggesting it was an efficient predator.
It also had powerful jaws designed to deliver a strong bite.
Allosaurid dinosaurs, in general, had a well-developed sense of smell and binocular vision, characteristics often associated with predatory animals.
While Metriacanthosaurus had some distinctive features (like its elongated neural spines), it shares similarities with other theropod dinosaurs.
For example, its overall body shape and features, such as sharp teeth and strong hind limbs, are similar to that of related carnivorous dinosaurs like Allosaurus and Sinraptor.
Habitat and Distribution
Metriacanthosaurus lived during the mid-Jurassic period, about 166 million years ago.
The fossil remains of this dinosaur have been discovered in England, specifically in the Oxford Clay Formation in Oxfordshire.
The range of this dinosaur, when it was alive, would have covered parts of the present-day United Kingdom.
166 million years ago, Europe and the rest of the planet looked completely different.
It was part of a larger landmass known as Pangea.
The supercontinent was still intact but was beginning to break apart, forming separate land masses.
The mid-Jurassic was generally warm and humid, but there were seasonal variations and localized variations from place to place.
Metriacanthosaurus, along with other dinosaurs that lived in Jurassic Europe, lived in a lush environment with relatively high temperatures.
The Oxford Clay Formation, where this dinosaur fossil was found, was a lowland coastal environment.
This gives us an idea of the Metriacanthosaurus’ possible habitat.
The area was characterized by wetlands, floodplains, and active river systems.
It is likely that Metriacanthosaurus inhabited these areas and adapted to hunting prey in the coastal plains of Europe.
Behavior and Diet
Much of what we know about the diet and behavior of Metriacanthosaurus is inferred from the comparisons with other closely-related theropod dinosaurs.
We know that it was a bipedal dinosaur, moving on two strong hind limbs.
Dinosaurs that moved like this were fast runners, capable of chasing prey at high speed.
Metriacanthosaurus was most likely a solitary hunter as there is no evidence of group or herding behavior in dinosaurs from the same family or the other large theropod dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
The sharp, serrated teeth of dinosaurs in the family Metriacanthosauridae is evidence of an active carnivorous diet.
This detention is typical of dinosaurs adapted to slicing through flesh.
It likely fed on a variety of prey, including small reptiles and mammals of the time as well as other dinosaurs and smaller animals of its time.
Metriacanthosaurus was likely an apex predator in its ecosystem, but its specific prey preferences are not well-documented due to the limited fossil record.
Like other dinosaurs, Metriacanthosaurus would have reproduced sexually.
We have no specific details of the courtship and mating behavior of this dinosaur and its close relatives.
After mating, they laid eggs in nests which were probably left to hatch on their own.
The nests were probably constructed nests on the ground or underground, as seen in some reptiles.
The eggs would have hatched after a specific incubation period, with the young emerging as hatchlings.
After hatching, Metriacanthosaurus hatchlings would have been relatively small compared to the adults but with similar body proportions.
It is likely that the parents provided some level of protection, such as feeding or guidance for a limited period of time, after which they were left to fend for themselves.
Metriacanthosaurus juveniles underwent a period of rapid growth during their early years.
Such rapid growth is evidenced by the difference in size between juvenile and adult individuals.
The rate of growth would have gradually slowed down as they reached maturity.
Evolution and History
Metriacanthosaurus is a theropod dinosaur that belongs to the family Metriacanthosauridae.
Its precise evolutionary relationships are still under investigation and subject to revision as new discoveries are made.
Metriacanthosaurus shares some anatomical characteristics with other theropods, especially some of its closest relatives within the Metriacanthosauridae family, such as Sinraptor and Shidaisaurus.
It also belongs to a much larger group known as Allosauroidea.
The allosaurid dinosaurs were apex predators that lived from the Middle Jurassic to Late Cretaceous periods.
One notable feature of Metriacanthosaurus is its moderately developed neural spines along the back and tail, from which it derives its name.
The presence of these spines is a characteristic shared with some other theropods like Acrocanthosaurus and Allosaurus.
This suggests a parallel evolution of such structures among certain theropod lineages.
Although the function of these spines is still uncertain, experts think they may have been used for display purposes.
It is likely that this and other morphological characteristics of this dinosaur changed over time.
However, limited fossil evidence left behind by this dinosaur has made it difficult to trace changes in their body size or skeletal structure over time.
The only fossil of this dinosaur found so far was recovered from upper Jurassic rocks from Jordan’s Cliff at Weymouth.
It was discovered by W. Parker and was first described by Von Huene in 1932.
Initially, it was assigned to the Altispinax, but a review in 1964 placed the dinosaur in the Metriacanthosaurus genus with only one species identified so far.
Interactions with Other Species
As a large carnivorous dinosaur, Metriacanthosaurus likely had very few natural enemies or predators.
However, they would have had to compete with other large carnivorous dinosaurs in the same ecosystem for resources such as prey and territory.
For instance, the Oxford Clay formation where this dinosaur was found also had a 15-foot-long megalosaurid dinosaur known as Eustreptospondylus that may have preyed on small-to-medium-sized animals in the same ecological niche as the Metriacanthosaurus.
Larger ones, like the Allosaurus, were also alive around the same period.
In terms of prey, Metriacanthosaurus likely targeted a variety of herbivorous dinosaurs and other smaller animals.
Its large size and formidable jaws equipped with sharp teeth would have made it a formidable predator capable of taking down relatively large prey.
It is possible that it hunted animals like Stegosaurus or Cetiosaurus, which were present in the same ecosystems during the mid-Jurassic period.
Although not well-known to the general public, Metriacanthosaurus is quite relevant in the scientific community as one of the notable carnivorous dinosaurs of the middle Jurassic.
Although fossil discoveries of Metriacanthosaurus are limited, scientists have been able to reconstruct some of the dinosaur’s morphology, behavior, and even evolutionary relationships by comparison to some of its relatives.
The little anatomical variations observed in this dinosaur (moderately-sized span) also provide paleontologists with some knowledge of the variations that existed within the broader theropod dinosaur group.
This may also add to our knowledge of the evolutionary history of the group.
Research is still ongoing, and the discovery of new materials in the future may further aid our understanding of the Metriacanthosaurus and other related dinosaurs.
To the general public, this dinosaur has been featured in books, films, television shows, and video games.
So while Metriacanthosaurus may not be well known as some of the other iconic dinosaurs, it has still made some appearances in various media forms.
It is worth noting that most physical depictions of this dinosaur are based on speculations about what it might have looked like and not on direct fossil evidence.
Also known as “moderately-spined lizard,” Metriacanthosaurus is a genus of medium-sized dinosaur that was alive about 160 million years ago.
A fragmentary fossil of this dinosaur was discovered in England in the 1900s, and it has been reconstructed based on comparison to some of its closest relatives.
It was a ferocious carnivore that dominated its local ecosystem.
The dinosaur’s name refers to its moderately-sized vertebral spines, which were its most notable feature.
Although we currently have limited knowledge of this dinosaur’s life, the discovery of new fossils and advancement in scientific techniques or technology may help scientists extract new information from the Metriacanthosaurus fossils we currently have.
How was Metriacanthosaurus discovered?
Metriacanthosaurus was first discovered in 1923 in Oxfordshire, England, by W. Parker. It was later described by fossil hunter Friedrich von Huene.
The fossils consisted of vertebrae, limb bones, and teeth, providing valuable insights into this dinosaur’s anatomy.
How did Metriacanthosaurus defend itself?
Metriacanthosaurus probably relied on its size, agility, and powerful jaws with sharp teeth to defend itself.
Its robust build and predatory adaptations made it an effective predator, allowing it to overpower and take down its prey rather than relying on defensive mechanisms.
How common was Metriacanthosaurus during its time?
It is challenging to determine the exact abundance of Metriacanthosaurus in its ecosystem due to the incomplete fossil record.
However, based on the available evidence, it is believed that Metriacanthosaurus was not as abundant as some other theropod dinosaurs of its time.
Its remains are relatively scarce, suggesting that it may have been less common or less frequently preserved compared to other contemporaneous dinosaurs.
What does the name “Metriacanthosaurus” mean?
The name “Metriacanthosaurus” is derived from Greek roots. “Metri” means “moderate” or “moderately,” “acantho” means “spine,” and “saurus” means “lizard.”
It refers to the moderately developed spines along its back and tail, which are characteristic of this dinosaur.