(meaning 'strange lizard') is a genus
of large theropod dinosaur
that lived 155 to 145 million years ago, in the late Jurassic period
. The first remains that can definitely be ascribed to this genus were described in 1877 by Othniel Charles Marsh
. As one of the first well-known theropod dinosaurs, it has long attracted attention outside of paleontological
circles, and has been a lead dinosaur in several films
Allosaurus was a large bipedal predator with a large skull, equipped with dozens of large, sharp teeth. It averaged 8.5 meters (30 ft) in length, though fragmentary remains suggest it could have reached over 12 meters (39 ft). Relative to the large and powerful hindlimbs, its three-fingered forelimbs were small, and the body was balanced by a long, heavy tail. It is classified as an allosaurid, a type of carnosaurian theropod dinosaur. The genus has a complicated taxonomy, and includes an uncertain number of valid species, the best known of which is A. fragilis. The bulk of Allosaurus remains have come from North America's Morrison Formation, with material also from Portugal and possibly Tanzania. It was known for over half of the 20th century as Antrodemus, but study of the copious remains from the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry brought the name Allosaurus back to prominence, and established it as one of the best-known dinosaurs.
As the prominent large predator in the Morrison Formation, Allosaurus was at the top of the food chain, probably preying on contemporaneous large herbivorous dinosaurs. Potential prey included ornithopods, stegosaurids, and sauropods. While it is often thought of as preying on sauropod dinosaurs in groups, there is little evidence for cooperative social behavior in this genus, and individuals may have been aggressive toward each other instead. It may have attacked large prey by ambush, using its upper jaws like a hatchet. (see more...)