An Ultimate Guide to Torvosaurus: The Savage Lizard

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 4th January 2024

Name Meaning“Savage Lizard” or “Fierce Lizard”Height4.5 meters (15 feet)
Pronunciationtor-vo-SAW-rusLength39 meters (130 feet)
EraMesozoicLate JurassicWeight4 to 5 tons (8,000 to 10,000 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Saurischia & TheropodaLocationNorth America (USA), Portugal (Europe)

Torvosaurus Pictures

Torvosaurus | MR1805 via GettyImages

The Torvosaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Torvosaurus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Torvosaurus Concept

Torvosaurus is a genus of massive megalosaurid theropod dinosaur that was alive during the Middle to Late Jurassic period, approximately 165 to 148 million years ago.

Also known as the savage lizard, this gigantic dinosaur was one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era.

A true terror of its time, this dinosaur dominated the North American continent and some parts of Europe as well.

Fossils of this Torvosaurus were first discovered in 1899, but this specimen was never described until more than a century after.

Within that time, other fragmentary Torvosaurus fossils were discovered and named.

Until recently, only fragmentary remains of this dinosaur had been found.

But in 2012, scientists discovered an almost complete specimen that may help paint a clearer picture of the life, habitat, and habits of this gigantic megalosaur.

Although a lot is still unknown about this dinosaur, this article contains some interesting facts about it and its significance. 

Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Plush Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Plush Collection

Physical Characteristics

Torvosaurus | Elenarts108 via GettyImages

Torvosaurus belongs to a group of bipedal carnivorous dinosaurs called the megalosaurs.

Members of this group are known for their massive size, and the Torvosaurus was among the biggest of them.

It was a large predatory dinosaur with an average length estimated to be about nine meters and a height of about 15 feet (4.5 meters) tall at the hip. 

Two species have been identified so far in the genus.

The North American variety known as Torvosaurus tanneri is bigger, with a length estimate of about 12 m (39 feet) and a weight of more than four tons.

The slightly smaller European species—T. gurneyi—had an estimated maximum body length of 10–11 meters (33–36 feet) and weighed between four and five metric tons. 

Based on these estimates, Torvosaurus is considered the largest terrestrial carnivore of the Jurassic and one of the biggest predators to have ever walked the planet.

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Torvosaurus Size Comparison
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Torvosaurus Size Comparison

However, it is worth noting that this dinosaur’s size estimate is speculatory since it is based on incomplete fossils. 

Torvosaurus had a typical theropod body shape compared to other famous dinosaurs like the Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus.

It had a large head, a long neck, and powerful hind limbs. However, just like the other theropods, it had relatively short forelimbs.

This sort of morphology meant this dinosaur was bipedal. However, its body was well balanced on its strong hind limbs.

It had a horizontal posture and its massive tail helped to counterbalance its weight.

One of the most distinctive features of Torvosaurus was its head. The large skull measured approximately four feet (1.2 meters) in length, complete with powerful jaws filled with sharp, serrated teeth.

The teeth were curved and designed for slicing through flesh. In addition to the slight difference in their size, one major distinction between the two species in this genus is the shape of their mouth and number of teeth.

While T. tanneri had a more tightly packed upper jaw with up to 11 teeth, T. gurneyi had fewer teeth. 

Habitat and Distribution

Torvosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic period, approximately 165 to 148 million years ago.

Paleontologists have uncovered fossils of this dinosaur in different locations all over the world, indicating that they had a relatively wide geographic range.

In fact, it may have been the widest-ranging theropod dinosaur ever discovered. 

Most notably, Torvosaurus fossils have been discovered in North America (specifically Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming) and Europe (Portugal and possibly England).

This confirms that it inhabited both continents during its time.

Other probable locations where this dinosaur may have lived include Tanzania, Uruguay, Spain, and Germany. 

Torvosaurus mounted cast, on display at the Museum of Ancient Life, Utah
Torvosaurus mounted cast, on display at the Museum of Ancient Life, Utah | Etemenanki3 via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Based on the locations where fossils of this dinosaur have been found, scientists believe Torvosaurus probably lived in a wide range of environments.

For instance, the location of the Torvosaurus fossils found in Portugal suggests that it may have lived in a coastal area or near rivers.

The North American species, on the other hand, was found in habitats characterized by forests, floodplains, and open plains.

During the Late Jurassic period, the environment was quite different from what we have today.

The continents of North America and Europe were still connected, making it possible for land animals to walk between them.

This explains the existence of the Torvosaurus on both continents and their widespread range. 

The earth’s climate was also remarkably different during the Jurassic.

It was warm and humid, with light variations from one region to the other.

Thanks to its massive size, the Torvosaurus was an apex predator in the different locations where it was found. 

Behavior and Diet

A Torvosaurus runs after two Dilophosaurus dinosaurs in a desert environment
A Torvosaurus runs after two Dilophosaurus dinosaurs in a desert environment | CoreyFord via Getty Images

Torvosaurus was a bipedal dinosaur, meaning it walked on two legs.

The robust body of this dinosaur was supported by two muscular and powerful hind limbs.

This suggested that this dinosaur was a fast and agile runner.

As with other theropods, the long tail of the Torvosaurus helped it to maintain balance.

As the name “savage lizard” suggests, this large carnivore was a formidable predator.

It had strong jaws with long and sharp teeth well-suited for tearing into prey.

Scientists believe this dinosaur was an apex predator that actively hunted prey.

Torvosaurus likely depended on its speed, agility, and powerful bite to bring down its victims. 

The medium-sized arms, although not used for walking, were still suitable for grasping and holding prey.

Like many predators today, it’s possible that this dinosaur used ambush tactics to surprise prey before chasing it down in short bursts. 

We have limited evidence about the social behavior of Torvosaurus.

However, based on the habit of other well-known theropod dinosaurs, Torvosaurus is generally believed to have been a solitary predator. It lived and hunted alone. 

However, some scientists speculate that Torvosaurus may have formed small groups or family units.

This speculation is based on the discovery of multiple Torvosaurus individuals in close proximity to certain fossil sites. 

Reconstructed T. tanneri skull, Museo Capellini of Bologna, Italy
Reconstructed T. tanneri skull, Museo Capellini of Bologna, Italy | Ghedoghedo via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Given the size of this dinosaur and its massive jaw, it was capable of hunting large sauropods such as Diplodocus and Supersaurus. Stegosaurs like the Stegosaurus and Miragaia were probably on the menu too.

Being an apex predator, this dinosaur was capable of preying on smaller carnivores as well and may have done so occasionally. 

Life Cycle

Torvosaurus | MR1805 via Getty Images

Torvosaurus reproduced sexually. It is believed that this dinosaur laid eggs, as evidenced by the discovery of fossilized dinosaur eggs and embryonic materials that have been attributed to Torvosaurus. 

The clutch of eggs that were discovered in Western Portugal date back to 152 to 145 million years ago.

This means they’re the oldest dinosaur embryos known, and their discovery is quite significant to paleontologists. 

Evidence suggests that the eggs were either buried in underground nests or covered with vegetation to protect them until they hatched.

It is unclear if Torvosaurus provided parental care to hatchlings after they emerged from the egg or abandoned the eggs after laying them. 

No juvenile fossils have been discovered so far.

Scientists believe that the absence of immature individuals may be a result of misidentification of their fossils (if they do exist) or because they occupied a different ecological niche from adults. 

Evolution and History

Torvosaurus fighting against an Apatosaurus
Torvosaurus fighting against an Apatosaurus | Elenarts108 via Getty Images

Torvosaurus was one of the largest and most well-known members of a group of theropod dinosaurs known as Megalosauridae.

The evolutionary history of this family of dinosaurs can be traced back to the Early Jurassic period (up to 183 million years ago).

Torvosaurus shares a common ancestry with other theropod dinosaurs, such as the primitive Dilophosaurus and the younger Allosaurus. 

Throughout its evolutionary history over several million years, Torvosaurus and its relatives underwent several morphological changes.

It represents a trend of increasing body size within the theropod lineage.

Its ancestors, like Dilophosaurus, were smaller in size. This increase in size made this dinosaur more efficient at hunting down and securing large prey. 

Torvosaurus is also known for its robust skull structure supported by large and powerful jaws.

This cranial structure was an adaptation for feeding on meat and tearing the flesh of the big prey they had to hunt for food.

Comparisons with earlier theropods, like Dilophosaurus, confirm a transition towards a more specialized predatory lifestyle.

Interactions With Other Species 

A Diplodocus dinosaur herd gets very upset as two Torvosaurus dinosaurs kept them from drinking at a watering hole
A Diplodocus dinosaur herd gets very upset as two Torvosaurus dinosaurs kept them from drinking at a watering hole | CoreyFord via Getty Images

In all the habitats where this dinosaur was found, Torvosaurus was a top predator, similar to other large theropods of its time.

As an apex predator, it would have played a significant role in the Late Jurassic ecosystems with an ability to hunt and feed on a wide range of dinosaurs and other prey animals.

The specific prey species that this dinosaur interacted with varied from one continent to the other.

However, given the proximity of North America and Europe at the time, there was significant overlap in the fauna observed on both continents. 

In North America, Torvosaurus probably preyed on sauropod dinosaurs such as Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, and Brachiosaurus.

It may have also hunted iguanodonts like Camptosaurus and Dryosaurus

In Europe, the dinosaur would have interacted with sauropods like the Lusotitan which was the largest plant-eating dinosaur on the continent at the time.

It may have hunted diplodocids like Dinheirosaurus and Lourinhanosaurus as well.

Torvosaurus and Stegosaurus
Torvosaurus and Stegosaurus | CoreyFord via Getty Images

European species of Camptosaurus were present as well and may have been hunted by Torvosaurus.

Because of its large size, Torvosaurus would have had no trouble interacting with the other big predator dinosaurs in its home habitat.

Experts think it may have used its larger size to intimidate or even scare off theropods like the Ceratosaurus, Marshosaurus,‭ ‬ and even Allosaurus. 

However, these predator dinosaurs may have had different dietary preferences, which may have reduced altercations between them.

For instance, scientists believe that the Allosaurus was suited to a bone-crushing diet, while the massive head and jaws of the Torvosaurus meant it would have favored dismembering and opening up exceptionally large dinosaur carcasses.

So instead of fighting over prey, the dinosaurs would have developed a simple commensalism relationship that favored the smaller dinosaurs without affecting the bigger Torvosaurus

Cultural Significance 

Torvosaurus and Diplodocus dinosaur
Torvosaurus and Diplodocus dinosaur | CoreyFord via Getty Images

Torvosaurus has played a crucial role in our understanding of theropod dinosaurs and the ecosystems they inhabited during the Late Jurassic period.

Although many of the earliest fossils of this dinosaur were fragmentary, paleontologists have used Torvosaurus as a reference point to study aspects such as growth rates, reproduction feeding adaptations, and paleoecology of theropod dinosaurs. 

As one of the largest known theropods from the Late Jurassic, it contributes to the understanding of dinosaur species diversity during that time.

It’s unique characteristics and evolutionary history shed light on the various forms and adaptations that existed within the theropod group, particularly within the megalosaurid family. 

Although Torvosaurus may not be well-known to the general public because it isn’t often depicted in pop culture. It still holds cultural significance.

Its impressive size, fierce appearance, and role as a top predator make it a fascinating subject for books, documentaries, and other media related to dinosaurs.

Most importantly, Torvosaurus fossils and reconstructions are on display in various museums around the world, showcasing its significance in scientific research and public knowledge of prehistoric animals.


Torvosaurus was a massive bipedal theropod dinosaur that lived during the Jurassic period roughly 148 million years ago.

The dinosaur is known from several fossil remains found across various locations in North America and Europe.

Until 2012, only fragmentary remains of this dinosaur were known.

Based on available evidence, Torvosaurus is one of the largest predator dinosaurs to have ever walked the planet.

It is known for its massive head and powerful jaws which made it capable of hunting large herbivore dinosaurs in its habitat. 

Also known as the savage lizard, Torvosaurus was an apex predator capable of taking down any prey.

Not a lot is known about the habits of this dinosaur, but evidence suggests it would have been similar to that of other enormous theropod dinosaurs.

The recent discovery of a relatively complete specimen of Torvosaurus means we may soon discover a lot more information about this dinosaur.

This will contribute even more to the existing knowledge of theropod dinosaurs and other massive prehistoric animals that lived during the Jurassic period. 


What does the name “Torvosaurus” mean?

The name “Torvosaurus” is derived from Latin and it means savage lizard or fierce lizard. “Torvus” means “savage” or “fierce,” while “saurus” means “lizard.” 

How big was Torvosaurus?

Torvosaurus was a large theropod dinosaur. While the size of individual specimens can vary, estimates suggest that they could reach lengths of around 30 to 36 feet (9 to 11 meters) and weigh between four and five tons.

It was smaller than some other large theropods like Tyrannosaurus rex but still an impressive predator in its own right.

When did Torvosaurus live?

Torvosaurus lived during the late Jurassic period, approximately 153 to 148 million years ago.

It existed alongside other dinosaurs and diverse prehistoric creatures during that time.

Where have Torvosaurus fossils been found?

Fossils of Torvosaurus have been discovered in several locations around the world.

The most significant finds have come from North America, specifically in the Morrison Formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

Torvosaurus fossils have also been found in Portugal, Germany, and other parts of Europe. 

Did Torvosaurus have any natural enemies?

As a large carnivorous dinosaur, Torvosaurus would have been a formidable predator, and it likely did not have any natural enemies among other dinosaurs.

However, it is possible that it could have faced competition from other large predators which shared its ecosystem.


About The Author

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Gage Beasley Prehistoric | Recapping Timeless Creatures

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top