Metriacanthosaurus (meaning "moderately-spined lizard") is a genus of metriacanthosaurid dinosaur from the upper Oxford Clay of England, dating to the mid-Jurassic Period, about 160 million years ago (lower Oxfordian).
History of discovery
In 1923, German paleontologist Friedrich von Huene wrote a paper on Jurassic and Cretaceous European carnivorous dinosaurs. In this paper, he examined a specimen, OUM J.12144, including an incomplete hip, a leg bone, and part of a backbone, assigning it to a new species of Megalosaurus: Megalosaurus parkeri. The specific name honours W. Parker who in the nineteenth century had collected the fossils near Jordan's Cliff at Weymouth. These bones were from the Oxford Clay Formation, which is from the Upper Jurassic.
In 1932, however, von Huene concluded it was species of Altispinax, A. parkeri.
In 1964, scientist Alick Walker decided these fossils were too different from Altispinax, as it lacked the long vertebral spines, and named a new genus, Metriacanthosaurus. The generic name is derived from Greek metrikos, "moderate", and akantha, "spine". Metriacanthosaurus thus gets its name from its vertebrae, which are taller than typical carnosaurs, like Allosaurus, but lower than other high-spined dinosaurs like Acrocanthosaurus.
Metriacanthosaurus was a medium-sized theropod with a femur length of eighty centimetres. Gregory S. Paul in 1988 estimated its weight at a tonne. Metriacanthosaurus was named for the height of its neural spines, which are actually not overly tall for theropods. They are similar to other theropods such as Megalosaurus, Sinraptor, and Ceratosaurus in being 1.5 times the height of the centrum.
In The Land Before Time
A theropod, possibly Metriacanthosaurus, briefly appears in the The Land Before Time Animated Moviebook's Swamp Bubble Spelling Bee minigame, during a presentation of the word "Sit".