Saurophaganax

saurophaganax
Saurophaganax (Wikimedia Commons).

Name:

Saurophaganax (Greek for "greatest lizard-eater"); pronounced SORE-oh-FAGG-an-axe

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (155-150 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 40 feet long and 3-4 tons

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; bipedal posture; overall similarity to Allosaurus

 

About Saurophaganax

Between the time the fossils of Saurophaganax were discovered in Oklahoma (in the 1930's) and the time they were fully examined (in the 1990's), it dawned on researchers that this large, fierce, meat-eating dinosaur was most likely a giant species of Allosaurus (in fact, the most notable reconstruction of Saurophaganax, at the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, makes use of fabricated, scaled-up Allosaurus bones).

Whatever the case, at 40 feet long and three to four tons, this fierce carnivore almost rivaled the later Tyrannosaurus Rex in size, and must have been much feared in its late Jurassic heyday. (As you might expect, given where it was unearthed, Saurophaganax is the official state dinosaur of Oklahoma.)

However Saurophaganax winds up being classified, how did this dinosaur live? Well, judging by the profusion of sauropods discovered in its stretch of the Morrison Formation (including Apatosaurus, Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus), Saurophaganax targeted the juveniles of these enormous plant-eating dinosaurs, and may have supplemented its diet with occasional servings of fellow theropods like Ornitholestes and Ceratosaurus. (By the way, this dinosaur was originally named Saurophagus, "eater of lizards," but its name was later changed to Saurophaganax, "greatest eater of lizards," when it turned out that Saurophagus had already been assigned to another genus of animal.)