Megapnosaurus (Syntarsus)

Megapnosaurus (Sergey Krasovskiy).


Megapnosaurus (Greek for "big dead lizard"); pronounced meh-GAP-no-SORE-us; also known as Syntarsus; possibly synonymous with Coelophysis


Woodlands of Africa and North America

Historical Period:

Early Jurassic (200-180 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 75 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; bipedal posture; narrow snout; strong hands with long fingers

About Megapnosaurus (Syntarsus)

By the standards of the early Jurassic period, about 190 million years ago, the meat-eating dinosaur Megapnosaurus was huge--this early theropod may have weighed as much as 75 pounds, hence its unusual name, Greek for "big dead lizard." (By the way, if Megapnosaurus sounds a bit unfamiliar, that's because this dinosaur used to be known as Syntarsus--a name that turned out to have already been assigned to a genus of insect.) Complicating matters further, many paleontologists believe that Megapnosaurus was actually a large species (C. rhodesiensis) of the much better-known dinosaur Coelophysis, the skeletons of which have been unearthed by the thousands in the American southwest.

Assuming that it does deserve its own genus, there were two distinct variants of Megapnosaurus. One lived in South Africa, and was discovered when researchers stumbled on a bed of 30 tangled skeletons (the pack had apparently been drowned in a flash flood, and may or may not have been on a hunting expedition). The North American version sported small crests on its head, a hint that it may have been closely related to another smallish theropod of the late Jurassic period, Dilophosaurus. The size and structure of its eyes indicates that Megapnosaurus (aka Syntarsus, aka Coelophysis) hunted at night, and a study of the "growth rings" in its bones reveals that this dinosaur had an average life span of about seven years.

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Strauss, Bob. "Megapnosaurus (Syntarsus)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Strauss, Bob. (2020, August 25). Megapnosaurus (Syntarsus). Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "Megapnosaurus (Syntarsus)." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).