Back in 2012, paleontologist Jason Cooper uncovered a horde of huge dinosaur bones at the privately-owned Skull Creek Quarry in Colorado’s famed Morrison Formation. At first, Cooper wasn’t sure how much of the dinosaur he had uncovered, or even what kind of dinosaur it was, but he immediately sensed this was something different… and something important. It took countless hours over the next three digging seasons to free the various bones from the ground, all still safely encased within their surrounding rock matrix. A veritable treasure trove of bones was eventually uncovered, a disarticulated puzzle of gigantic proportions that needed both additional expertise and labor before Cooper, or anyone else, knew exactly what had been found.
“It didn’t take long before we knew we had hit upon something special,” he said. “One day we came across this huge tooth embedded in matrix, and we suddenly realized that this just wasn’t another dinosaur. This was a Torvosaurus… and we were finding more of it than anyone had ever found before.”
Unless you earn your living working as a vertebrate paleontologist at a leading museum or university, you’ve probably never heard of this Mesozoic monster. In all honesty, up to now there’s been no particular reason for the name Torvosaurus (which translates to “savage lizard”) to have entered the popular lexicon, especially since no complete example of this fossilized beast has ever been found. Indeed, only scattered bits of bone and teeth have so far comprised our storehouse of known material, making this one of the most mysterious of giant prehistoric predators. Yet judging by the size and quantity of bones from this Torvosaurus specimen which has been nicknamed “Elvis” (it is, after all, a “King”), this amazing creature probably reached a size over 40 feet in length, larger than any known T rex.