Europe’s ‘largest predatory dinosaur’ found by British fossil hunter

An artistic rendering of the massive White Rock spinosaurid.

A giant crocodile-headed dinosaur discovered on the Isle of Wight by one of Britain’s top fossil hunters was likely the largest predator to ever chase Europe, scientists said Thursday.

Most of the bones of the two-legged spinosaurid were found by the late local collector Nick Chase, who devoted his life to combing the island’s beaches on England’s south coast in search of dinosaur remains.

Researchers at the University of Southampton then used the few bones available to identify what they’ve dubbed the “White Rock spinosaurid,” they said in a study published in the journal pearJ

“This was a huge animal, measuring over 10 meters (33 feet) in length and judging by some of its dimensions, it probably represents the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe,” said Chris Barker, a Ph.D. . student who conducted the study.

While admitting it would be better to have more bones, Barker told AFP the “numbers don’t lie — it’s bigger than the largest known specimen” previously found in Europe.

Thomas Richard Holtz, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the study, agreed that the new find “seems bigger” than a massive predator whose fossilized remains were discovered in Portugal.

Matt Lamanna, a dinosaur paleontologist at the US Carnegie Museum of Natural History, praised the “excellent, thorough study of the specimen” given the lack of bones, but said it was difficult to compare sizes.

For example, he said that the largest known spinosaurid, the Spinosaurus, was probably the longest dinosaur “but it probably wasn’t as heavy” as the Tyrannosaurus rex or the Giganotosaurus – “the latter of which is about to become super famous thanks to the new movie.” Jurassic World”.

The best-preserved bones of the Wight Rock spinosaurid, including a tail vertebra that helped indicate its massive size

The best-preserved bones of the Wight Rock spinosaurid, including a tail vertebra that helped indicate its massive size.

Why the long face?

The White Rock spinosaurid – which the researchers hope to formally name as a new species-is from the early Cretaceous and is estimated to be about 125 million years old.

Barker said that makes it the youngest spinosaurid found in Britain, two or three million years younger than the known Baryonyx.

Spinosaurids are known for their elongated heads. Instead of the square skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex, their faces are more like those of a crocodile.

A leading theory to explain this trait is that they hunted both in water and on land.

“They’re a bit like storks and herons, wading in and snatching fish from the surface,” Barker said.

The White Rock spinosaurid was discovered in a coastal lagoon where few dinosaur fossils are found normally.

“It helps paint a picture of what animals lived at that time, which is a very poorly known part of England’s paleontological heritage,” Barker added.

Nick Chase, whom scientists called

Nick Chase, who the scientists called “one of Britain’s most skilled dinosaur hunters,” found the most new spinosaurid bones.

The team had already identified two new spinosaurid species on the Isle of Wight, including Ceratosuchops inferodios, also known as the “heron of hell.”

“This new animal supports our previous argument — published last year — that spinosaurid dinosaurs originated and diversified in Western Europe before they became more widespread,” said study co-author Darren Naish.

The ‘uncanny ability’ of the collector

The paleontologists paid tribute to Chase, who always donated all the bones he found to museums.

“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,” said study co-author Jeremy Lockwood, a Ph.D. student at the University of Portsmouth.

Barker said Chase’s “uncanny ability” to find bones shows that “it’s not just professional paleontologists who influence the discipline.”

The discovery “highlights the fact that collectors have a huge role to play in modern paleontology and that their generosity advances science,” he added.

And if there are aspiring fossil hunters hoping to pick up where Chase left off, the paleontologists would welcome more spinosaurid bones from White Rock.

“We’re hoping a passerby picks up some bits and donates them,” Barker said.

Europe’s largest land predator unearthed on the Isle of Wight

More information:
Chris T. Barker et al, A European Giant: A Large Spinosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) of the Vectis Formation (Wealden Group, Early Cretaceous), UK, pearJ (2022). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.13543

Journal information:

© 2022 AFP

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