Experts in the UK have discovered what could well be Europe’s biggest carnivorous dinosaur and largest land predator dating back 125 million years on the Isle of Wight.
Palaeontologists at the University of Southampton say the discovery represents what could prove to be Europe’s largest known land predator, which measured over 10 metres (32.8 feet) long and lived about 125 million years ago.
The University of Southampton said in a statement that the experts had studied several prehistoric bones that had been uncovered on the Isle of Wight, on the south coast of England and which were being housed at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown, also on the Isle of Wight.
The university added: “Several prehistoric bones, uncovered on the Isle of Wight, on the south coast of England, and housed at Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown, belonged to a type of two-legged, crocodile-faced predatory dinosaur known as spinosaurids. Dubbed the ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ – after the geological layer in which it was found – it was a predator of impressive proportions.”
PhD student Chris Barker, who led the study, said: “This was a huge animal, exceeding 10 m in length and probably several tonnes in weight. Judging from some of the dimensions, it appears to represent one of the largest predatory dinosaurs ever found in Europe – maybe even the biggest yet known.”
Barker added: “It’s a shame it’s only known from a small amount of material, but these are enough to show it was an immense creature.”
The fossilised bones of the animal, including “huge pelvic and tail vertebrae, amongst other pieces”, were unearthed near Compton Chine, which lies on the Isle of Wight’s south-western coast.
The area’s rocky formations, dating back to the Cretaceous era, are famous for their dinosaurs, according to the University of Southampton, adding “but little appreciated is the fact that the Island’s fossil record preserves dinosaurs from more than one section of history – and some of those sections, even today, are poorly known.”
One of the study’s authors, Dr Neil Gostling, who teaches evolution and palaeobiology at the University of Southampton, said: “Unusually, this specimen eroded out of the Vectis Formation, which is notoriously poor in dinosaur fossils.”
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He added: “It’s likely to be the youngest spinosaur material yet known from the UK.”
The university explained: “The 125 million year old Vectis Formation preserves the beginning of a period of rising sea levels, where the ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ stalked lagoonal waters and sandflats in search of food.”
Co-author Darren Naish said: “Because it’s only known from fragments at the moment, we haven’t given it a formal scientific name.”
He added: “We hope that additional remains will turn up in time.
“This new animal bolsters our previous argument – published last year – that spinosaurid dinosaurs originated and diversified in western Europe before becoming more widespread.”
Co-author Jeremy Lockwood, a PhD student at the University of Portsmouth and Natural History Museum, said: “Most of these amazing fossils were found by Nick Chase, one of Britain’s most skilled dinosaur hunters, who sadly died just before the Covid epidemic.”
He added: “I was searching for remains of this dinosaur with Nick and found a lump of pelvis with tunnels bored into it, each about the size of my index finger. We think they were caused by bone eating larvae of a type of scavenging beetle. It’s an interesting thought that this giant killer wound up becoming a meal for a host of insects.”
The researchers are now hoping that they can find out more information about the dinosaur’s growth rate and age by studying parts of the fossilised bones under a microscope.
The study, which has been published in the academic, peer-reviewed journal PeerJ, is titled ‘A European giant: a large spinosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Vectis Formation (Wealden Group, Early Cretaceous), UK’.
Its authors are Chris T. Barker, Jeremy A.F. Lockwood, Darren Naish, Sophie Brown, Amy Hart, Ethan Tulloch, and Neil J. Gostling.
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