The remains of one of Europe’s largest land-based predator dinosaurs have ever been discovered in Britain, researchers said on Thursday.
The two-legged, crocodile beast known as a spinosauride lived 125 million years ago, said paleontologists at the University of Southampton in the UK, after finding several prehistoric bones from the skeleton on the Isle of Wight, a small island off the south coast of England.
“This was a large animal,” said Chris Barker, a doctoral student who led the study, in a press release, adding that it was nearly 33 feet long and several tons in weight.
“Based on some of the dimensions, it appears to represent one of the largest predatory dinosaurs ever found in Europe – perhaps even the largest to date,” he said.
The team called the find “the white stone spinosauride” because bones from the creature’s back, hips, tail and limbs were found in the geographical layer known as white stone.
“Because it is only known from fragments at the moment, we have not given it a formal scientific name,” said Darren Naish, a paleontologist who co-authored the study. “We hope that further remains will appear in time,” he added.
“Coastal environments do not preserve things well, so any findings help us understand the dinosaurs around that time,” Neil Gostling, who oversaw the project, said in an email Friday.
The spinosauride would have pursued lagoons and sand plains in search of food, and it would have been dependent on fish as a significant part of its diet, the study said.
Marks on the bones, including networks of tunnels drilled into the pelvis, suggest that the skeleton became food for scavengers and decomposers after death, it added.
“It’s an interesting thought that this giant killer ended up being a meal for a variety of insects,” said Jeremy Lockwood, a doctoral student at the University of Portsmouth who participated in the study.
The spinosaurid family may have appeared in Europe about 150 million years ago, Barker said, adding that the creature found by the team was “probably the youngest British spinosaur discovered so far, extending the family’s time span.”
The team said the next step would be to examine thin sections of the dinosaur’s bones under a microscope to get a better sense of its growth rate and age.
But in the long run, Barker said, he hoped the material would be cleared for full public viewing.