Oklahoma State Fossil
Saurophaganax (common name)
Saurophaganax maximus (scientific name)
Saurophaganax maximus is a species of theropod that was alive during the middle and late Jurassic period of the Mesozoic era, approximately 145 to 205 million years ago. Theropods by definition are bipedal, carnivorous dinosaurs with forelimbs shorter than their hind legs. Theropods are related to modern crocodiles and birds.Saurophaganax maximus is also a member of the family Allosauridae, a family of medium to large theropods. Some paleontologists, however, question the taxonomic classification ofSaurophaganax maximus, considering it to be instead a species of the genus Allosaurus, A. maximus.
Saurophaganax maximus inhabited the plains of what is now known as the state of Oklahoma. The fossils of this huge predator come from an area known to paleontology and geology as the Morrison Formation. This enormous geologic formation is comprised mainly of the states of Wyoming and Colorado, with outcrops in 11 other central and western states.
The best Saurophaganax maximus fossil specimens came from Oklahoma. The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman displays the skeleton of one of these rare giants.Saurophaganax maximus is the latest state fossil to be named, designated the official state fossil of Oklahoma on April 14, 2000.
The genus name for this huge dinosaur means "king of lizard-eaters." The word Saurophaganax comes from the Greek word σαύρα (saura), which means "lizard," while φαγάς (phagas) means "eater." Paleontologist D.J. Chure named this genus and species in 1995.
The largest dinosaur of late Jurassic North America, Saurophaganax maximus grew up to 45 feet (14 m) long and up to 16 feet (5 m) high. The biggest individuals reached the size of the notoriousTyrannosaurus rex, weighing up to two tons (1.8 metric tons). A bipedal carnivore and fierce predator, Saurophaganax maximus fed on smaller reptiles and insects. Like all theropods, Saurophaganax maximus had claws and sharp, curved teeth useful for tearing the flesh of its prey. It also had three-toed feet and a wishbone, other characteristics common to theropods. This dinosaur was distinguished by the protective chevron bones on its tail vertebrae.
It is not known exactly what led to the extinction of dinosaurs.Saurophaganax maximus became extinct at the end of the Jurassic period and the beginning of the Cretaceous period.
The first Saurophaganax maximus bones were discovered by a University of Oklahoma paleontologist and a crew from the WPA (Work Projects Administration, a public works project agency operated by the U.S. government from 1932 to 1943). The crew uncovered the fossils in the late 1930s, and few Saurophaganax maximus fossils have been found since then.
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|Author: World Trade Press|