A team of researchers from the University of Southampton, UK, discovered the remains of one of Europe’s largest dinosaurs. The bones, found on the Isle of Wight, south coast of England, belonged to a 10m long spinosaurid who lived around 125 million years ago.
The bones, currently housed at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown, belonged to a two-legged predatory dinosaur called spinosaurid. “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”, said Ph.D. student Chris Barker, who led the study. “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 bones of the “white rock spinosaurid” include a massive pelvic and tail vertebrae and were discovered along the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight. Researchers know that the island has many preserved dinosaurs from more than one period in history, some of them poorly studied even today.
However, this spinosaurid came from an area where researchers didn’t expect to find many fossil records. “Unusually, this specimen eroded out of the Vectis Formation, which is notoriously poor in dinosaur fossils,” said corresponding author Dr. Neil Gostling, who teaches evolution and palaeobiology at the University of Southampton. “It’s likely to be the youngest spinosaur material yet known from the UK.” The 125 million-year-old Vectis Formation goes back to the period when the sea levels were rising, and it’s believed that the spinosaurid followed shallow waters and sand flats in search of food.
“Because it’s only known from fragments at the moment, we haven’t given it a formal scientific name,” said co-author Darren Naish. 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.”
Researchers found several marks on the bones, indicating that this giant supported a variety of scavengers after death. “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 Jeremy Lockwood, a Ph.D. student at the University of Portsmouth and Natural History Museum. “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 team is keen to create thin sections of bones to look under the microscope, which may provide crucial information about these dinosaurs’ age and growth rate.
Barker CT, Lockwood JAF, Naish D, Brown S, Hart A, Tulloch E, Gostling NJ. 2022. A European giant: a large spinosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Vectis Formation (Wealden Group, Early Cretaceous), UK. PeerJ 10:e13543 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.13543