‘Europe’s biggest-ever land predator’ discovered in UK

Ten-metre spinosaur would have been able to bite other dinosaurs in half, experts believe

<p>Massive creature had a face like a crocodile, razor-sharp teeth and claws and a whip-like tail, experts say </p>

Massive creature had a face like a crocodile, razor-sharp teeth and claws and a whip-like tail, experts say

A dinosaur unearthed on the Isle of Wight may be the largest land predator that ever roamed Europe, scientists say.

It was almost like a cross between Tyrannosaurus rex and the great white shark, as it was also able to hunt in water, according to experts.

The enormous creature had a face like a crocodile, razor-sharp teeth and claws and a whip-like tail.

It was as big as a bus – more than 33ft long and weighing more than five tons. The fossilised bones recently discovered include large pelvic and tail vertebrae.

They were dug up near Compton Chine on the southwest coast and date back 125 million years, a period of rising sea levels.

The bipedal beast had short arms like T rex. Stalking lagoons and sandflats, its bonecrushing jaws snapped large fish and even other dinosaurs in half.

It was a member of the spinosaurid family, which are thought to have been the first dinosaurs to swim.

Bones grew on their backs to form what is referred to as a “sail”. These spines were up to 7ft long and connected by skin.

Chris Barker lead author of a new study of the bones and a palaeontology student at the University of Southampton, said the newly uncovered beast was a killer of immense proportions.

He said: “This was a huge animal, exceeding 10m in length, and judging from some of the dimensions, probably represents the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe. It is just a shame it is only known from such scant material.”

The new species was entombed inside a sandstone bed at a prehistoric graveyard called the Vectis Formation. It has been unofficially named the “White Rock spinosaurid” after the geological layer in which it was found.

Pelvic bones gave clues about the beast’s size

The Isle of Wight has been unofficially dubbed Dinosaur Island because of the large number of palaeontological treasures found there, many of which are on display at a purpose-built museum in Sandown.

More dinosaur bones have been dug up there than anywhere else in Europe, most dating to the Cretaceous period. Its position in the age of the dinosaurs is thought to be roughly where Gibraltar is now.

Corresponding author Dr Neil Gostling, a lecturer in evolution at Southampton, said: “Unusually, this specimen eroded out of the Vectis Formation, which is notoriously poor in dinosaur fossils. It is likely to be the youngest spinosaur material yet known from the UK.”

Marks on the bone showed that even after death the body of this monster probably supported a range of scavengers and other organisms.

Co-author Jeremy Lockwood, a PhD student at the University of Portsmouth, said: “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-19 pandemic.

“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 is an interesting thought that this giant killer wound up becoming a meal for a host of giant insects.”

The famous Needles which form the tip of the west side of the Isle of Wight, near to where the remains were found

The researchers now plan to strip thin sections to scan internal properties of the bones to shed light on the animal’s growth rate and possible age.

Co-author Dr Darren Naish, from Southampton, said: “Because it’s only known from fragments at the moment, we haven’t given it a formal scientific name. We hope additional remains will turn up in time.”

He added: “This new animal bolsters our previous argument – published last year – that spinosaurid dinosaurs originated and diversified in western Europe before becoming more widespread.”

In September, the same team announced two other spinosaurs had been discovered nearby.

They named one the “hell heron” because it hunted like the wading bird. The latest is decribed in the journal PeerJ.

Details of this latest find come just a day after scientists digging in Egypt published details of another dinosaur they said was a relative of T rex. The beast’s 95-million-year-old fossilised remains were unearthed at the Bahariya oasis, 180 miles southwest of Cairo.

SWNS

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