Dinosaur bones on Isle of Wight rewrite evolutionary history

An amateur palaeontologist has unearthed the biggest dinosaur to be discovered in the British Isles - and possibly Europe - from a cliff overlooking an Isle of Wight beach.

An amateur palaeontologist has unearthed the biggest dinosaur to be discovered in the British Isles - and possibly Europe - from a cliff overlooking an Isle of Wight beach.

Scientists who have just finished analysing the dinosaur's two neck bones believe it grew to about 66 feet long and weighed up to 50 tons. It lived around 130 million years ago when Britain was subtropical and still connected to Europe and North America.

Gavin Leng, a local fossil hunter, first unearthed one of the dinosaur's neck vertebrae in 1992, but its true importance was recognised only after it was cleaned and prepared by scientists at the University of Portsmouth.

Darren Naish, a palaeontologist at Portsmouth, said that one of the fossilised vertebrae, which is more than two feet long, indicates that the creature belonged to a group of long-necked dinosaurs called the sauropods.

"I can't think of anything that is as near as big as this one. The size makes it one of the biggest sauropods in Europe - in fact at the moment it is the biggest so far reported scientifically," Mr Naish said.

Features of the vetebrae indicate that the dinosaur was closely related to two other well-known sauropods, brachiosaurus and sauroposeidon, which have been unearthed in Africa and America.

"The bone contains a wealth of information that allowed us to work out with confidence exactly what sauropod it belonged to. This, coupled with the giant size, was what attracted me to take a further look," Mr Naish said.

One of the neck bones is very well preserved and was found sticking out of a type of sedimentary rock that is known to contain many dinosaur remains - the so-called Wessex Formation. It was well preserved because it was embedded in concrete-like siderite rock - a type of clay impregnated with iron. This protected the fragile bone structure, Mr Naish said.

Sauropods were among the largest land animals to have lived. They were herbivores and probably lived a partly aquatic life. Mr Naish said that until now people did not think that large sauropods lived at this time in Earth's history, a period known as the lower Cretaceous. "The most significant thing about this specimen is that it shows that big sauropods existed in the lower Cretaceous period... I think this is part of a bigger story," he said.

Sauropods were the biggest and heaviest dinosaurs at the time but many experts believed that they had died out by the preceding Jurassic period.

The fossil was found along a stretch of beach between Clinton Chine and Sudmoor Point, and has gone on display in the local Dinosaur Isle museum. Details of the scientific analysis is published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

Mr Naish said he started to study the fossil in 2000. "People knew it was interesting but no one got around to studying it. There are thousands of fossils sitting in collections waiting to be studied but there are not enough experts to do it," he said.

The largest dinosaur in the world is thought to be Argentinasaurus, from South America, a 120ft-long creature weighing up to 100 tons.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn