While the Tyrannosaurus Rex may have been one of the largest meat-eating carnivores of prehistoric time, the Spinosaur comes a close second. Paleontologists at the University of Southampton made a massive discovery, literally and figuratively. They discovered fossils of a spinosaurid about 10 meters long at the Isle of Wight, making it the largest dinosaur remains found in Europe.
Nicknames the White Rock spinosaurid, it has yet to receive an official taxonomical name. Here are the complete details as presented by the University of Southampton.
Image courtesy of Anthony Hutchings from the University of Southampton, visual representation of the White Rock Spinosaurid
The Discovery of the White Rock Spinosaurid
The University of Southampton paleontologists discovered several fossils at the Isle of Wight, which are now being preserved at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown. Chris Barker, a Ph.D. student at the educational institution, led the study on these remains, explaining what a monumental find it was.
“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. 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.”
Image courtesy of Chris Barker/Dan Folkes, showing the position of preserved spinosaurid bones
While paleontologists know that the Spinosaur was one of the largest carnivores to walk the prehistoric earth, it’s the first time fossils of a dinosaur this size has been found in Europe. It’s a legacy that may remain with the Isle of Wight for many years to come.
Did Spinosaurs Originate In Western Europe Before Moving Out To Other Lands?
The university and several authors have believed for some time that spinosaurids may have originated on the land now known as Western Europe before moving out. One of these authors is Darren Naish, who shared his views on the discovery of the White Rock Spinosaurid.
“Because it’s only known from fragments at the moment, we haven’t given it a formal scientific name. 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.”
The spinosaurid’s bones include massive pelvic and tail vertebrae. The paleontologists discovered them nearby Compton Chine, situated on the Isle of Wight’s southwest coast. They believe this specific dinosaur was living in the area since it was rich in food within the surrounding waters.
The Youngest Spinosaur Remains Discovered in the UK
Another interesting fact is that the White Rock Spinosaurid is possibly the youngest spinosaurus fossils found on UK land. The Vectis Formation is as old as 125 million years and has preserved many remains since that time. However, marks on some of the bones reveal that decomposers and scavengers spent some time feeding on the decaying body before it became fossilized.
Jeremy Lockwood, a Ph.D. student at the Natural History Museum and University of Portsmouth, shared some more details of the discovery:
“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. 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.”
Researchers are busy studying the spinosaurid’s remains with the hope that they can determine what its age was when it died and its growth rate. The scientific community will be waiting for further news with keen interest.
Those involved with the discovery of the White Rock Spinosaurid are authoring a paper called ‘‘A European giant: a large spinosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Vectis Formation (Wealden Group, Early Cretaceous)”. You can read more about it in the PeerJ journal.
News source: University of South Hampton