Temporal range: Middle Jurassic, 160Ma
von Huene, 1923
†Metriacanthosaurus parkeri (von Huene, 1923)
Metriacanthosaurus (meaning "moderately-spined lizard") is a genus of sinraptorid dinosaur from the upper Oxford Clay of England, dating to the mid-Jurassic Period, about 160 million years ago (lower Oxfordian).
History of discovery
In 1923, German paleontologist Friedrich von Huene wrote a paper on Jurassic and Cretaceous European carnivorous dinosaurs. In this paper, he examined a specimen, OUM J.12144, including an incomplete hip, a leg bone, and part of a backbone, assigning it to a new species of Megalosaurus: Megalosaurus parkeri. The specific name honours W. Parker who in the nineteenth century had collected the fossils near Jordan's Cliff at Weymouth. These bones were from the Oxford Clay Formation, which is from the Upper Jurassic.
In 1964, scientist Alick Walker decided these fossils were too different from Altispinax, as it lacked the long vertebral spines, and named a new genus, Metriacanthosaurus. The generic name is derived from Greek metrikos, "moderate", and akantha, "spine". Metriacanthosaurus thus gets its name from its vertebrae, which are taller than typical carnosaurs, like Allosaurus, but lower than other high-spined dinosaurs like Acrocanthosaurus.
Metriacanthosaurus was a medium-sized theropod with a femur length of eighty centimetres. Gregory S. Paul in 1988 estimated its weight at a tonne. Metriacanthosaurus was named for the height of its neural spines, which are actually not overly tall for theropods. They are similar to other theropods such as Megalosaurus, Sinraptor, and Ceratosaurus in being 1.5 times the height of the centrum.
Originally named as a species of Megalosaurus in Megalosauridae, Metriacanthosaurus was more likely a member of Sinraptoridae. It is thought to be related to genera such as Yangchuanosaurus, and in 1988 Paul synonymized the two genera. However, a 2007 review of British dinosaurs by Darren Naish and David Martill found that they were distinct. Metriacanthosaurus is the first genus of sinraptorid from Europe, being named before the other possibly member Lourinhasaurus. Metriacanthosaurus is likely a member of the subfamily Metriacanthosaurinae.
In popular culture
- In the film version of Jurassic Park, one of the vials containing dinosaur embryos is labeled with the name Metriacanthosaurus, though the genus does not appear in the film. According to Thomas R. Holtz, this was probably meant to refer not to M. parkeri but rather the more famous Yangchuanosaurus shangyouensis, which Gregory S. Paul then classified as a species of Metriacanthosaurus.
- F. v. Huene, 1923, "Carnivorous Saurischia in Europe since the Triassic", Bulletin of the Geological Society of America 34: 449-458
- Naish, D.; Martill, D.M. (2007). "Dinosaurs of Great Britain and the role of the Geological Society of London in their discovery: basal Dinosauria and Saurischia". Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society 164: 493–510.
- von Huene, F., 1932, Die fossile Reptil-Ordnung Saurischia, ihre Entwicklung und Geschichte. Monographien zur Geologie und Palaeontologie 1(4). pp. 361
- A.D. Walker, 1964, "Triassic reptiles from the Elgin area: Ornithosuchus and the origin of carnosaurs", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences 248: 53-134
- Benson, R.B.J.; Radley, J.D. (2010). "A New Large-Bodied Theropod Dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of Warwickshire, United Kingdom". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 55 (1): 35–42. doi:10.4202/app.2009.0083.
- Carrano, M. T.; Benson, R. B. J.; Sampson, S. D. (2012). "The phylogeny of Tetanurae (Dinosauria: Theropoda)". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 10 (2): 211–300. doi:10.1080/14772019.2011.630927.
- Holtz, Thomas R. (1998-03-02). "Re: Metriacanthosaurus". Dinosaur Mailing List (Mailing list). Retrieved 2009-01-03.