Scientists have discovered two new species of large predatory dinosaurs with “unusual crocodile-like skulls” on the Isle of Wight in England. Dinosaurs are believed to be a species of spinosaurid and were the first skeletons of the dinosaur family to be discovered in the UK since 1983.
The two new species are linked to an “unusual and controversial” ancient family of dinosaurs, according to a report by paleontologists at the University of Southampton published Wednesday in Scientific Reports.
The first, Ceratosuchops inferodios, meaning “horned crocodile-faced hell heron,” has a head full of low horns and bumps along its frontal region, scientists have discovered, and is said to have had a style of hunting similar to that of a “terrifying heron.” »
The second find, Riparovenator milnerae, which means “Milner’s bank hunter”, is similar to that of Ceratosuchops inferodios and has a long tail and a crocodile-like muzzle. It was named in honor of British paleontologist Angela Milner who died on August 13. Milner is credited with naming the new species’ closest relative, the Baryonyx dinosaur.
The skeletons are still incomplete, but based on tail and skull fossils found so far, researchers believe the two dinosaurs were around nine meters long, or over 29 feet. Their skulls were about a meter long, or over 3 feet.
Study co-author David Horne said it was “very common” for “similar and closely related” carnivores to have lived in the same ecosystem.
“The Lower Cretaceous rocks on the Isle of Wight describe an ancient floodplain environment bathed in a Mediterranean-like climate. Although generally mild, forest fires have occasionally ravaged the landscape, and the remains of burnt wood can be seen on the cliffs today, ”the University of Southampton said in a press release. “With a large river and other expanses of dinosaurs attracting water and home to various fish, sharks and crocodiles, the habitat provided the newly discovered spinosaurids with plenty of hunting opportunities. “
The new dinosaurs are believed to date from the Cretaceous Period, with bones estimated to be over 125 million years old, the scientists said in a press release. Their research suggests that spinosaurids first evolved in Europe before migrating to Asia, Africa and South America.
The Isle of Wight is commonly referred to as the “Dinosaur Island” because fossils can be easily found along its beaches.
In fact, it was a simple discovery on these beaches by two fossil collectors that started the hunt to identify the new species. In 2013, the University of Southampton said fossil collectors found parts of two skulls near Brighstone Beach on the island. Soon after, members of the Dinosaur Isle Museum found much of a tail, and now more than 50 bones have been found, the scientists said.
“This is the rarest and most exciting find I have made in over 30 years of collecting fossils,” said Brian Foster, one of the collectors, in a statement.
Jeremy Lockwood, who also found some of the fossils, said: “We realized after the discovery of the two snouts that this would be something rare and unusual. Then it got more and more amazing as several collectors found and donated other pieces of this huge puzzle to the museum.
But scientists have long suspected that there are other species of spinosaurs.
“We have known for about 20 years now that Bryonyx-type dinosaurs were waiting to be discovered on the Isle of Wight,” study co-author Darren Naish said in a statement, “but find the remains of two of these animals in close succession was a huge surprise.
The last and only time that a spinosaurid skeleton was discovered in the UK, according to the researchers, dates back to 1983. Aside from this skeleton, which was believed to be that of a baryonyx, the researchers only encountered isolated teeth.
feature image: artist print of newly identified species, Anthony Hutchings / University of Southhampton