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Megapnosaurus (Syntarsus)

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megapnosaurus

Megapnosaurus (Sergey Krasovskiy)

Name:

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

Habitat:

Woodlands of Africa and North America

Historical Period:

Early Jurassic (200-180 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 6 feet long and 75 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; strong hands with long fingers

About Megapnosaurus (Syntarsus):

By the standards of the early Jurassic period, Megapnosaurus was huge--this early theropod (which was closely related to Coelophysis) 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.)

As far as we know, there were two distinct species of Megapnosaurus. One lived in South Africa, and was discovered when researchers discovered a bed of 30 tangled skeletons (the pack had apparently been drowned in a flash flood). The North American variant sported small crests on its head, a hint that it was closely related to another smallish Jurassic theropod, Dilophosaurus. (By the way, some paleontologists believe that both of these species should be subsumed under Coelophysis, but not everyone is convinced.)

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