Eustreptospondylus: A Journey Back in Time

Imagine, if you will, stepping back in time to the Late Jurassic period–a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Among these magnificent creatures, one stands out. This is the Eustreptospondylus, a carnivorous dinosaur whose name translates to “well-reversed vertebrae.” This intriguing dinosaur, with its unique characteristics and fascinating history, offers a glimpse into a world long past.

The Eustreptospondylus, often referred to as the ‘Eustrep’ for short, is a captivating subject for anyone interested in paleontology. Its unique characteristics and the circumstances of its discovery provide a wealth of information about the world as it was millions of years ago. So, let’s embark on a journey to explore the life and times of this fascinating dinosaur.

Eustreptospondylus Key Facts

Eustreptospondylus pronunciationyoo-strep-toe-spon-die-luss
Meaning of nameWell-reversed vertebrae
Type SpeciesEustreptospondylus oxoniensis
When it Lived164.7 to 161.2 NYA
PeriodLate Jurassic
EpochLate/Upper Callovian
Length23.0 ft
Height4.9 ft
Weight0.55 tons
MobilityMoved on two legs
First Discovery1870 by James Parker
Location of first findEngland, UK
First Described by1871 by John Phillips
HolotypeOUM J13558

Eustreptospondylus Origins, Taxonomy, and Timeline

"Illustration of the dinosaur Eustreptospondylus, depicted in a dynamic stance with its mouth open as if roaring. The dinosaur has a muscular build with well-defined limbs and a long tail. Its skin is illustrated with a pinkish hue and subtle shading to highlight its musculature.

The Eustreptospondylus has a name derived from the Greek words ‘eu’, meaning “good, well,” ‘streptos’, meaning “turned, curved,” and ‘spondylus’, meaning “vertebra”. This name is a testament to the dinosaur’s unique vertebral structure. This carnivorous dinosaur belongs to the Theropoda group, specifically the Megalosauridae family. Its type species is Eustreptospondylus oxoniensis.

It roamed the Earth during the Late Jurassic period, specifically the Late Callovian epoch. This places its existence in a time when the world was a vastly different place than it is today, as Pangaea was finishing its split and the continents began their migration to their current positions.

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Discovery & Fossil Evidence

The discovery in 1870 marked a significant moment in the field of paleontology. The dinosaur’s remains were found in the Summertown Brick Pit in England, and they were acquired by James Parker from the workers at the pit. This discovery was a significant find, as it provided the first glimpse into the existence of this unique dinosaur.

Photograph of an Eustreptospondylus skeleton displayed in a museum exhibit. The skeletal remains are positioned within a glass case, showcasing the dinosaur's structure with notable emphasis on its legs and tail.
Ballista at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This dinosaur was later described by the English geologist John Phillips in 1871. Phillips’ description of the dinosaur was based on the fossils that had been discovered up to that point, which included a nearly complete skeleton. This level of preservation is relatively rare in paleontology and it provided a wealth of information about the dinosaur’s physical characteristics and potential behaviors.

Since the initial discovery, there have been additional finds that have further expanded our understanding of this dinosaur. Each new discovery adds another piece to the puzzle, helping to paint a more complete picture of this fascinating dinosaur and the world it inhabited.

Eustreptospondylus Size and Description

As a member of the Theropoda group, this is a dinosaur that captures the imagination with its unique characteristics and impressive size. Let’s delve deeper into its physical attributes and understand what sets it apart.

Short Description of Eustreptospondylus

This is a large theropod dinosaur known for its unique vertebral structure, which is reflected in its name–”well-reversed vertebrae.” Its body shape is typical of theropods, with a large head, a long, flexible neck, and a tail that provided balance. The dinosaur moved on two legs, also characteristic of theropods, and its carnivorous diet suggests that it was a formidable predator in its time.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Size comparison diagram of Eustreptospondylus oxoniensis next to a human figure. The diagram shows the dinosaur's silhouette in green, measuring approximately 6 meters in length. A human figure, labeled as 1.8 meters tall, stands beside the dinosaur for scale, providing a visual reference to the dinosaur's size.
PaleoGeekSquared, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This was a sizable dinosaur, with estimates suggesting a length of around 23 feet. However, as with many aspects of paleontology, there is some degree of uncertainty and debate regarding these measurements. Some sources suggest that the dinosaur could have been slightly smaller or larger, depending on various factors such as age and individual variation within the species. As for the dinosaur’s weight, estimates are even more challenging to pin down due to the lack of complete fossil evidence. However, based on its size and the known characteristics of similar dinosaurs, it’s reasonable to assume that the Eustreptospondylus was a heavyweight contender in its ecosystem.

The Ultimate Dino Quiz
Do you want to test your knowledge on dinosaurs? Then try this Ultimate Dino Quiz! Don’t worry if you get some of the answers wrong, and look at it as an opportunity to refresh and improve your knowledge!

The Ultimate Dino Quiz

Do you want to test your knowledge on dinosaurs? Then try this Ultimate Dino Quiz! Don’t worry if you get some of the answers wrong, and look at it as an opportunity to refresh and improve your knowledge!

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The Dinosaur in Detail

The Eustreptospondylus is a dinosaur that stands out not just for its size, but also for its unique features. One of the most distinctive aspects of this dinosaur is its vertebrae. The name, meaning “well-reversed vertebrae,” is a testament to this unique characteristic. The vertebrae are opisthocoelous, meaning they are convex in the front and concave in the back. This feature, along with its size and carnivorous nature, suggests that this was a formidable creature in its time.

Its adaptability is another aspect that sets it apart. As a theropod, it was likely a skilled predator that was capable of hunting and capturing its prey with efficiency. This adaptability would have been crucial for its survival in the Late Jurassic period–a time when competition for resources was fierce.

Notable specimens have provided valuable insights into this dinosaur. The nearly complete skeleton discovered in the Summertown Brick Pit in England has been particularly informative, offering a detailed look at the dinosaur’s physical characteristics and potential behaviors. This specimen, along with others that have been discovered, has significantly contributed to our understanding of the Eustreptospondylus and its place in prehistoric ecosystems.

The Eustreptospondylus in its Natural Habitat and Environment

This predator lived during the Late Jurassic period in a time when the Earth’s climate and geography were vastly different from today. The world during this time was warm and humid with lush vegetation covering the landscape. This environment would have provided ample resources for a carnivorous dinosaur like the Eustreptospondylus.

As a carnivore, it would have been a predator that hunted other dinosaurs and possibly smaller animals for food. Its mobility, moving on two legs, would have given it the speed and agility necessary to capture its prey. The dinosaur’s diet and hunting habits would have played a significant role in shaping its behavior and lifestyle.

Its impact on its environment would have been significant. As a large predator, it would have been at the top of the food chain, influencing the populations of its prey species. Its activities would have shaped the landscape around it, from the paths it created as it moved through the vegetation to the marks it left on the land from its hunting activities.

Interesting Points about Eustreptospondylus

  1. This is one of the few dinosaurs for which a nearly complete skeleton has been found, providing a wealth of information about its physical characteristics. 
  2. The dinosaur’s name, which translates to “well-reversed vertebrae,” is in reference to its vertebral structure.
  3. This was a large carnivorous dinosaur, suggesting that it was a formidable predator in its time.
  4. The dinosaur’s existence during the Late Jurassic period places it in a time when the world was vastly different from today.
  5. It was first discovered in England, marking it as one of the significant and earliest dinosaur discoveries in the UK.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

In the ancient world where the Eustreptospondylus roamed, it shared its existence with a captivating array of contemporaries. Among them were the Megalosaurus, Allosaurus, Cetiosaurs, and Lexovisaurus. Each of these European dinosaurs contributed to the intricate dynamics of their shared environment.

The Megalosaurus was a creature of considerable size that might have been a formidable competitor to the Eustreptospondylus. Their potential encounters could have been a testament to the survival of the fittest, a silent duel played out under the prehistoric sun. The Allosaurus was another predator that might have been a rival, their interactions a thrilling dance of dominance and survival. Their coexistence paints a vivid picture of the challenges the Eustreptospondylus might have faced, adding a layer of complexity to its existence. 

The Cetiosaurus, on the other hand, was a gentle giant–an herbivore that likely coexisted peacefully with the Eustreptospondylus. Their lives may have been intersecting yet not conflicting as a testament to the diverse ways life found its path. The Lexovisaurus, another herbivore, might have been a mere bystander in the life of the Eustreptospondylus.. Their paths likely crossed without conflict and served as a reminder of the diverse tapestry of life that existed in those ancient times.

Here the Eustreptospondylus found its place, its life intertwined with its contemporaries in a complex web of survival, competition, and coexistence. This exploration into its life and its relationships with the Megalosaurus, Allosaurus, Cetiosaurus, and Lexovisaurus offers a glimpse into a world long gone, yet still fascinating in its complexity and diversity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the name mean?

The name translates to “well-reversed vertebrae,” a testament to the dinosaur’s vertebral structure.

When did this dinosaur live?

It lived during the Late Jurassic period, specifically the Late Callovian epoch, between 164.7 and 161.2 million years ago.

What did it eat?

This was a carnivorous dinosaur, meaning it ate meat. It likely hunted other dinosaurs and possibly smaller animals for food.

Where was it first discovered?

This dinosaur was first discovered in England, UK in 1870 by James Parker.

Who first described the Eustreptospondylus?

It was first described by English geologist John Phillips in 1871.

How did this dinosaur move?

It moved on two legs, a characteristic trait of theropods.


Please note that the information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. The aim is to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of the Eustreptospondylus, but please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.

This article was last fact-checked: Joey Arboleda, 06-11-2023

Featured Image Credit: ДиБгд, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons