Huge predatory dinosaur discovered in Europe

About 125 million years ago, where the Isle of Wight is located in the English Channel, a monstrous giant was moving: British paleontologists discovered the remains of a predatory dinosaur on the island, which they had assigned to a group of spinosaurs. At an estimated length of more than ten meters, it can outshine all previously known predatory dinosaurs in Europe. If the belonging to a new species is confirmed, it is now the fourth representative of the famous group of dinosaurs from southern England. The new discovery thus supports the supposition that spinosaurs originated in Western Europe and then colonized other parts of the Cretaceous world, the researchers said.

The history of the discovery of spinosaurs dates back to 1912: in Egypt, the remains of a predatory dinosaur over 16 meters long appeared, characterized by protrusions on the vertebrae and a mouth elongated like a crocodile. A species called Spinosaurus aegyptiacus has been further characterized by subsequent finds and is known to be possibly the largest predatory dinosaur of all time. It also earned Spinosaurus, for example, an appearance in the third installment of the Jurassic Park movie series, where it breaks the neck of a tyrannosaur. As you know, he was a representative of a whole group of predatory dinosaurs, to which the namesake was promoted: In addition to North Africa, species of predatory dinosaurs were also discovered in North America, Australia and Europe, which can be included in the group of spinosaurs. Their distinctive features suggest that they were adapted to living in water, and even mostly underwater, feeding on fish and other aquatic organisms.

Findings from the limestone cliffs of the Isle of Wight

The largest known species diversity among spinosaurs appeared in the Cretaceous in what is now southern England: the remains of the Baryonyx spinosaurus were first discovered there in 1983 in a clay excavation in Surrey. Then two more species appeared on the Isle of Wight in 2021. Now, a team of paleontologists led by Chris Barker of the University of Southampton are reporting another find from the southwest coast of the Channel Islands that they attribute to spinosaurids. They are especially large bone fragments that span parts of the vertebrae and ribs and are apparently from a single animal.

Based on the characteristics of the bones and comparisons with known spinosaurs, the scientists concluded that it was a representative of this group. What is unique about it is its enormous size compared to earlier finds from England, which could be estimated from the vertebrae. “The material found so far is sufficient to show that it was a huge creature. The animal was therefore over ten meters long and probably weighed several tons. Judging by its size, it seems to be one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs ever found in Europe – perhaps even the largest known to date, ‘says Barker.

On the trail of the growling giant

Scientists assume that the unusually large animal represents a previously unknown species – but they have not yet been able to prove it conclusively, as parts with clearly typical species characteristics are missing. “Hopefully more debris will come over time. Since only fragments are known so far, we haven’t given the dinosaur an official scientific name yet, ‘says co-author Darren Naish of the University of Southampton. That’s why scientists call this animal “White Rock Spinosaurus” from where it was found. To learn more about it, they now plan to make thin sections of the material they find to study the microscopic intrinsic properties of the bone. These analyzes could shed light on growth rate and possible age.

If they are correct in their assumption that the White Rock spinosaurus is a separate species, this would confirm the thesis they published last year regarding the findings of the other two spinosaurs: this group of theropods may have originally appeared in Western Europe. In the area of ​​today’s Isle of Wight, according to the traces of their former environment, they lived in the landscape of the lagoon. In this region, these amphibious dinosaurs may have given rise to a variety of species that then colonized larger parts of the Cretaceous world, one possible scenario.

Finally, the team reports a rather bizarre aspect to the new find: bone marks show how the body of the white rock spinosaurid served as food for the scavengers after its death. “There are tunnels the size of my index finger in the bone material. We believe they were caused by bone-eating larvae of a scavenger species. It’s an interesting thought that this giant killer has become food for various insects, ”says co-author Jeremy Lockwood of the University of Portsmouth.

Source: University of Southampton, Journal Article: PeerJ, doi: 10.7717 / peerj.13543

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