Terrific Tetanurae! #2 Erectopus superbus

Hi everyone! I have been informed by WordPress this is my 20th post! Time to celebrate! Enjoy the post!

Welcome to Terrific Tetanurae!, a series where I showcase some of the elusive, weird, and wonderful members of the clade tetanurae! This week we have Erectopus superbus, an obscure allosauroid dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous (Albian) of France with a name you can easily make a joke out of. Erectopus is classified as the most basal of the group allosauroidea, which contains the metriacanthosaurids, allosaurids, and other families of large predatory theropods. Erectopus was smaller then many of its relatives, at an estimated 440 pounds (Allain, 2005). Erectopus was probably one of the main predators of its ecosystem, preying on the myriad of ornithopods, sauropods, and other prey animals that it most likely co-existed with.  Erectopus is only known presently from plaster casts of the original specimen, the plastotype, and a partial maxilla, which has been designated as the lectotype.

The original specimen of E. superbus was described by Charles Barrois, a French geologist turned paleontologist, in 1875. The original specimen was stored in the private collection of Louis Pierson. Then, in 1882, Henri Sauvage re-described the animal as a species of MegalosaurusM. superbus, and the animal went without restudy for almost half a century until Friedrich von Huene saw the differences between E. superbus and Megalosaurus and re-described the animal, calling it Erectopus superbus. Then, in 1932, he concluded that the original specimen of E. superbus and the one described by Sauvage were not the same animal and gave Sauvage’s maxilla a new species name: E. sauvagi. Soon after, Pierson died and his collection was scattered among various people. Because of this, the holotype of Erectopus was thought to be lost to science. Then, in 2005, Ronan Allain published a (re)re-description of Erectopus based on casts found in the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle and on the partial maxilla described by Sauvage, which was collected from a Paris fossil dealer. Allain looked over the nomenclature of Erectopus and concluded the proper name to be Erectopus superbus. It’s quite a story, really. The history of Erectopus emphasizes how, especially in paleontology, opinions change drastically over time.

Erectopus superbus by the author. Pencils and copic markers on paper, 2015.

Erectopus superbus by the author. Pencils and copic markers on paper, 2015.


1. Barrois, C.1875. “Les reptiles du terrain Cretace du nord-est du Bassin de Paris”. Bulletin scientifique, historique et littéraire du Nord. 6:1-11.

2. Sauvage, H. E. 1882. “Recherches sur les reptiles trouves dans le Gault de l’est du bassin de Paris”. Memoires de la Societe Geologique de France, série 3. 2(4): 1-42.

3. Huene, F. von. 1923. “Carnivorous Saurischia in Europe since the Triassic”. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America. 34: 449-458.

4. Huene, F. von. 1932. ” Die fossile Reptil-Ordnung Saurischia, ihre Entwicklung und Geschichte”. Monographien zur Geologie und Palaeontologie. ser. 1: 1-361.

5. Allian, R. 2005. “The enigmatic theropod dinosaur Erectopus superbus (Sauvage, 1882) from the Lower Albian of Louppy-le-Chateau (Meuse, France)”. in Carpenter, K. 2005. The Carnivorous Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press: 72-86.


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