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Isle of Wight dinosaur ‘may be largest land predator to roam Europe’

The remains of what may be the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe have been unearthed on the Isle of Wight.

Paleontologists say the huge crocodile-faced dinosaur — which at 10 meters in length is almost as big as a London bus — lived 125 million years ago and would have weighed several tons.

The “giant killer” was a member of the spinosaurids, the first dinosaurs known to swim, and thus may have been able to hunt both in water and on land.

It would have lived at the beginning of a period of rising sea levels, stalking lagoon waters and sandbars in search of food.

Several prehistoric bones belonging to the ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ – so named because of the geological layer in which the remains were found, have been discovered on the island off the south coast of England.

They include huge pelvic and tail vertebrae and have since been analyzed by scientists at the University of Southampton.

The remains of what may be the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe have been unearthed on the Isle of Wight.  'White Rock spinosaurid' is depicted in an artist's impression

The remains of what may be the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe have been unearthed on the Isle of Wight. ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ is depicted in an artist’s impression

Experts say the huge crocodile-faced dinosaur — which at 10 meters in length was almost as big as a London bus — lived 125 million years ago and would have weighed several tons

Experts say the huge crocodile-faced dinosaur — which at 10 meters in length was almost as big as a London bus — lived 125 million years ago and would have weighed several tons

Several prehistoric bones belonging to the 'White Rock spinosaurid' - so named because of the geological layer in which the remains were found, have been discovered on the island off the south coast of England.  They include huge pelvic and tail vertebrae (pictured)

Several prehistoric bones belonging to the ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ – so named because of the geological layer in which the remains were found, have been discovered on the island off the south coast of England. They include huge pelvic and tail vertebrae (pictured)

HOW THE LARGEST KNOWN SPINOSAURID EVEN DWARF T.REX

Originally found in Egypt, Spinosaurus is the largest known spinosaurid.

It’s also thought to be one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs in existence — likely over 49 feet in length.

Spinosaurus (right) takes on a T-rex in the movie Jurassic Park III.  The 50-foot, seven-ton Spinosaurus was the largest known carnivorous dinosaur and lived 100 million years ago in North Africa

Spinosaurus (right) takes on a T-rex in the movie Jurassic Park III. The 50-foot, seven-ton Spinosaurus was the largest known carnivorous dinosaur and lived 100 million years ago in North Africa

Thoughts on its feeding behavior vary, with some research suggesting it was an active aquatic predator — hunting fish in the sea.

Other studies claim it was a heron-like shoreline feeder that grabbed fish and small land prey without going out to sea to actively chase fish.

It lived in the Late Cretaceous Period – 99 to 93.5 million years ago and lived in what is now North Africa.

Two species of Spinosaurus are known so far:

  • Spinosaurus aegyptiacus or Egyptian spine lizard
  • The controversial Spinosaurus maroccanus or Moroccan spiny lizard

The first known Spinosaurus fossils were destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, hampering paleontologists’ efforts to understand the unusual creatures.

More recently, the dinosaur became famous in the 2001 movie Jurassic Park III, where it fights and defeats a Tyrannosaurus rex.

PhD student Chris Barker said: ‘This was a huge animal, over 10 meters long and probably several tons in weight.

“Judging from some of its dimensions, it appears to be one of the largest predatory dinosaurs ever found in Europe — perhaps even the largest known to date.

“Too bad that only a small amount of material is known, but this is enough to show that it was an immense creature.”

The remains were found by dinosaur hunter Nick Chase, who has since passed away, near Compton Chine, on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight in the geological structure Vectis Formation, and are now on display at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown.

dr. Neil Gostling, corresponding author of the study published in the journal PeerJ, said: ‘Unusually, this specimen eroded from the Vectis formation, which is notoriously poor in dinosaur fossils.

“It is probably the youngest spinosaur material known to date from the UK.”

Co-author Darren Naish said: “This new animal supports our earlier argument – published last year – that spinosaurid dinosaurs originated and diversified in western Europe before they became more widespread.

“As it is known only from fragments at this time, we have not given it a formal scientific name,” added Mr Naish.

‘We hope that even more remains will turn up in due course.’

The scientists suggest that tracks on the bone, including small tunnels bored into a piece of pelvis, show that the giant dinosaur’s body would have been plucked by scavengers and decomposers after it died.

Co-author Jeremy Lockwood, a doctoral student at the University of Portsmouth and the Natural History Museum, said: ‘We think they were caused by bone-eating larvae of a species of scavenger beetle.

“It’s an interesting thought that this giant killer became a meal for a large number of insects.”

The researchers hope to look at microscopic internal properties of the bones in the near future, which could provide information about the dinosaur’s growth rate and possible age.

The largest known spinosaurid is Spinosaurus, which dwarfed even the fearsome T. rex.

The remains were found near Compton Chine, on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight in the geological structure Vectis Formation

The remains were found near Compton Chine, on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight in the geological structure Vectis Formation

The researchers hope to look at microscopic internal properties of the bones in the near future, which could provide information about the dinosaur's growth rate and possible age.

The researchers hope to look at microscopic internal properties of the bones in the near future, which could provide information about the dinosaur’s growth rate and possible age.

This image shows the area on the Isle of Wight where the dinosaur fossils were discovered

This image shows the area on the Isle of Wight where the dinosaur fossils were discovered

An animal’s behavior is difficult to guess from fossils; but based on its skeleton, some scientists have suggested that Spinosaurus could swim, while others think it simply waded in the water like a heron.

A new study published in March this year claimed that the dinosaur had dense bones that likely allowed it to hunt underwater.

Researchers at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois came to their conclusion after studying the density of spinosaurid bones and comparing them to other animals such as penguins, hippos and alligators.

The new discovery is published in the journal PeerJ Life & Environment

The remains were found by dinosaur hunter Nick Chase (pictured center), who has since passed away

The remains were found by dinosaur hunter Nick Chase (pictured center), who has since passed away

The Cretaceous rocks may be famous for their dinosaurs, but little appreciated is the fact that the island's fossil record preserves dinosaurs from more than one part of dinosaur history

The Cretaceous rocks may be famous for their dinosaurs, but little appreciated is the fact that the island’s fossil record preserves dinosaurs from more than one part of dinosaur history

HOW THE DINOSAURS SET OUT ABOUT 66 MILLION YEARS AGO

Dinosaurs ruled and dominated the Earth about 66 million years ago, before suddenly becoming extinct.

The Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event is the name given to this mass extinction.

For years it was believed that the changing climate was destroying the food chain of the huge reptiles.

In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.

This is an element that is rare on Earth, but found in large quantities in space.

When dated, it coincided exactly with when the dinosaurs disappeared from the fossil record.

A decade later, scientists discovered the massive Chicxulub crater on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which dates back to the period in question.

Scientific consensus now says that these two factors are related and that they were both likely caused by a huge asteroid that crashed into Earth.

Given the projected magnitude and impact speed, the collision would have created a massive shock wave and likely triggered seismicity.

The fallout would have created plumes of ash that likely covered the entire planet and made it impossible for dinosaurs to survive.

Other animal and plant species had shorter time spans between generations that allowed them to survive.

There are several other theories as to what caused the famous animals’ demise.

An early theory was that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs, and another holds that poisonous angiosperms (flowering plants) killed them.

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