Paleontologists discover two new species of spinosaurid dinosaurs

Two new early Cretaceous specimens from the Wessex Formation of the Isle of Wight, UK, represent distinct and novel genera and species of spinosaurids: Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milneraeaccording to a team of paleontologists led by the University of Southampton.

Artist’s impressions of Ceratosuchops inferodios (foreground) and Riparovenator milnerae (Context). Photo credit: Anthony Hutchings.

Spinosaurids are part of Spinosauridsa family of predatory theropod dinosaurs that includes the giant Spinosaurus.

These dinosaurs are known early to mid-Cretaceous of Africa, Europe, South America, and Asia.

Spinosaurids are among the most distinctive, yet least known, large theropod dinosaurs.

They are characterized by having an elongated, laterally compressed snout, sub-conical dentition, and, in a subset of species, a long veil of neural spine.

Their unusual skull morphology is atypical of non-avian theropod dinosaurs, and multiple lines of evidence point to an ability to exploit semi-aquatic niches.

The newly identified spinosaurids, Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milneraelived in the Lower Cretaceous period, about 125 million years ago.

Their fragmentary and incomplete remains were discovered at Chilton Chine on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight by fossil collectors.

The only spinosaurid skeleton previously unearthed in the UK belonged to Baryonyxwhich was originally discovered in 1983.

“We found the skulls of Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae differ not only from Baryonyxbut also from each other, suggesting that the UK was home to a greater diversity of spinosaurids than previously thought,” said Chris Barker, Ph.D. student at the University of Southampton.

“It might seem odd to have two similar, closely related carnivores in an ecosystem, but it’s actually very common for dinosaurs and many living ecosystems,” said Queen Mary University paleontologist Dr David Hone. from London.

Although the skeletons of Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae are incomplete, researchers estimate that both species were around 9 m (30 ft) long, catching prey with their meter-long skulls.

“With a series of low horns and bumps adorning the eyebrow region, the name of Ceratosuchops inferodios also refers to the likely hunting style of the predator, which would be similar to that of a heron,” they said.

“Herons catch aquatic prey near waterways, but their diet is much more flexible than commonly appreciated and can also include terrestrial prey.”

According to the study, spinosaurids first evolved in Europe, before dispersing to Asia, Africa and South America.

“A paleogeographic reconstruction suggests a European origin for Spinosauridae, with at least two dispersal events in Africa,” the authors said.

the to study was published in the journal Scientific reports.

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CT Barker et al. 2021. New spinosaurids from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous, UK) and European origins of Spinosauridae. Scientific representative 11, 19340; doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97870-8

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