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a meat-eating dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of England.
Pronunciation: nuth-EE-teez
Meaning: Monitor (lizard)
Author/s: Owen (1854)
Synonyms: Megalosaurus destructor
First Discovery: Dorset, England
Chart Position: 10

Nuthetes destructor

Like many dinosaurs discovered in the mid 1800s when the term "Dinosauria" was still a wee pup, Nuthetes has seen a lot of action despite being based on fossils that don't seem worth the bother, and its classification has caused nothing but problems ever since Charles Willcox dragged a three inch long lump of lower jaw bone from Feather Quarry near Durston Bay and plonked it on Richard Owen's desk way back in 1854.

Richard Owen originally classified Nuthetes as a monitor lizard, but he changed his mind with the discovery of what he called "granicones"—small armour scutes—stuck in a slab of Purbeck limestone and plumped for a crocodilian affinity, believing them to be similar to those found on modern crocs. Rather than belonging to Nuthetes, these scutes turned out to be the property of a turtle—possibly of the species Helochelydra anglica or "Tretosternon" bukewelli—and it was 34 years before Richard Lydekker twigged that Nuthetes was actually a dinosaur. Then it gathered dust for almost half a century.

In 1934 William Elgin Swinton thought Nuthetes was a juvenile member of the Megalosauridae and Rodney Steel went sofar as renaming it Megalosaurus destructor in 1970, but in 2002 Angela Milner suspected that its remains probably belonged to a subadult dromaeosaurid. In 2004 Steve Sweetman examined five specimens of fossil teeth and announced they all belonged to Nuthetes destructor—identified by him as a velociraptorine dromaeosaurid closely related to Velociraptor, no less—which would make Nuthetes one of the oldest known dromaeosaurids, the first to be described, and the first known from Britain... assuming his identification was correct, of course.

However, its teeth—curved, serrated and blade-like—bear a striking similarity to those of Proceratosaurus, as do many instances of isolated so-called dromaeosaurid teeth from the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous of Europe, so they have as much chance of belonging to a proceratosaurid tyrannosauroid, which are the oldest relatives of Tyrannosaurus rex. Larger teeth that have since been referred to Nuthetes may actually belong to Dromaeosauroides—another possible dromaesaurid and Denmark's sole dinosaur—which is known only from a couple of teeth, and perhaps some fishbone-flecked fossilized poop.
Nuthetes is an abbreviation of the Greek "nouthetetes" ("one who admonishes" or "a monitor")—in reference to the resemblance of its fossil teeth (so Owen thought) to those of modern monitor lizards, who occasionally stand on their two hind legs and appear to "monitor" their surroundings, hence the name. The species epithet (or specific name), destructor, is Latin for "destroyer", in reference to "the adaptations of the teeth for piercing, cutting, and lacerating the prey" (Owen, 1861).
The remains of Nuthetes were discovered by Charles Willcox, an amateur paleontologist from Swanage, at Feather Quarry near Durlston Bay in the Cherty Freshwater Member (or possibly the Worbarrow Tout Member) of the Lulworth Formation, Dorset, England, in the 1850s. The holotype (DORCM G913) is a three inch long lump of left lower jaw bone with nine teeth. It was once thought to be lost but was rediscovered in the 1970s in the Dorset County Museum.
In 2006, Pouech, Mazin and Billon-Bruyat referred a tooth (CHEm03.537) from Charente, France, to a Nuthetes sp.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Early Cretaceous
Stage: Berriasian
Age range: 145-140 mya
Est. max. length: 1.8 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 10 Kg
Diet: Carnivore
• Owen R (1854) "On some fossil reptilian and mammalian remains from the Purbecks". Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 10, 420-433.
• Owen R (1861) "Monograph on the Fossil Reptilia of the Wealden and Purbeck Formations".
• Lydekker R (1888 ) "Catalogue of the Fossil Reptilia and Amphibia in the British Museum (Natural History): Part 1. Containing the Orders Ornithosauria, Crocodilia, Dinosauria, Squamata, Rhynchocephalia, and Proterosauria".
• Milner A (2002) "Theropod dinosaurs of the Purbeck Limestone Group, southern England". Special papers in palaeontology 68:191-201.
• Sweetman SC (2004) "The first record of velociraptorine dinosaurs (Saurischia, Theropoda) from the Wealden (Early Cretaceous, Barremian) of southern England". Cretaceous Research, Volume 25, Issue 3, Pages 353–364.
• Rauhut OWM, Milner AC and Moore-Fay S (2010) "Cranial osteology and phylogenetic position of the theropod dinosaur Proceratosaurus bradleyi (Woodward, 1910) from the Middle Jurassic of England". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 158, 155–195.
• Pouech J, Mazin J-M and Billon-Bruyat J (2006) "Microvertebrate biodiversity from Cherves-de-Cognac (Lower Cretaceous, Berriasian: Charente, France)". The 9th International Symposium, Mesozoic Terrestrial Ecosystems and Biota, Manchester 2006, Abstracts and Proceedings volume. p.96-100.
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "NUTHETES :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 21st Aug 2017.