The fossil remains of a gigantic dinosaur found on an English island are believed to be the largest land predator that once inhabited Europe. The few bones discovered are from the Early Cretaceous period and are estimated to be about 125 million years old. They were found by the late fossil collector Nick Chase, who devoted his life to searching for dinosaur fossils on the beaches of the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England.
Based on the geological layer where the bones were found, scientists have named it the «White Rock spinosaurid,» although researchers hope to formally name it in the future as a new species.
THE LARGEST IN EUROPE
«This was a huge animal, exceeding 10 meters in length and, judging by some of its dimensions, probably represents the largest carnivorous dinosaur ever discovered in Europe,» said study director Chris Barker.
Although he admitted that it would be better to have more bones, Barker pointed out that «the numbers don’t lie: it is bigger than the largest known specimen» previously found in Europe. Spinosaurids are known for their elongated heads. Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is, so far, the largest terrestrial carnivorous dinosaur in the world and in Africa (15 meters). Instead of having a broad skull like that of a Tyrannosaurus rex (13 meters), its faces look more like those of a crocodile. One of the main theories to explain this trait is that they hunted both in water and on land.
And in Saudi Arabia, the first dinosaur fossils are found; dinosaur fossils are rare in the Arabian Peninsula; Previous finds include mainly teeth and bone fragments of similar species from Jordan, Oman and Lebanon, the researchers report.
«This discovery is important not only because of where the remains were found, but also because of the fact that we can actually identify them,» the study’s lead author, Benjamin Kear, said in a statement. «These are the first taxonomically recognizable dinosaurs reported from the Arabian Peninsula,» said Kear, a paleobiologist at Uppsala University in Sweden.
The 72 million year old fossils were discovered in the Adaffa Formation, a pile of sandstones and conglomerates (pebble-rich rocks) deposited by streams and rivers during the Late Cretaceous Period. During this time, Arabia had not yet separated from Africa and was bounded to the east by the Thetis Ocean. Parts of Arabia were underwater when bones were buried in the sand. (In early fossil searches, Kear found Cretaceous marine fossils in Saudi Arabia, such as plesiosaurs and mosasaurs, sharks and turtles.)
Kear and his colleagues carefully excavated a sandstone outcrop of the Adaffa Formation, about 7 miles (11 kilometers) northeast of Al Khuraybah in Saudi Arabia. There, they discovered two theropod teeth and several vertebrae.
The distinctive patterns on the teeth helped the team link the chompers to carnivorous abelisaurs, a family of dinosaurs common in North Africa at the time. Abelisaurs were bipedal, like Tyrannosaurus saurus rex, and grew to about 20 feet (6 meters) tall.
The vertebrae looked similar to those of titanosaurs, massive sauropods that lived on many continents, including Africa and South America. The species grew to 65 feet (20 m) long.