Scientists have revealed what they believe to be the first dinosaur ever discovered to hunt in the water, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.
Spinosaurus is not only the first semi-aquatic dinosaur, at 50 feet long it’s the largest predatory dinosaur ever found, at least least nine feet longer than the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex specimen. Scientist believe the great Cretaceous-era predator haunted lush ancient rivers that 95 million years later are now dry Sahara desert, seeking fish and making it a very, very risky move to go into the water.
The first Spinosaurus remains were found more than 100 years ago, but it took recent work by an international team of paleontologists to put together the dinosaur’s aquatic connections.
The original Spinosaurus find was made by German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach in the Egyptian Sahara. It was destroyed by the bombing of Munich during World War II, but the scientists were able to use photos, sketches and descriptions of it to support their research. Using this and partial specimens stored in museums and new fossils found in the Morrocan Sahara, they were able to create detailed digital model that was used to craft a full-sized replica of the Spinosaurus skeleton. The replica will be the center of a new exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C.
The scientists say Spinosaurus had several adaptations that made it suited to life in the water, including small nostrils in the middle of its skull for breathing when partially submerged, long-boned feet that may have been webbed, a long neck and trunk that shifted its mass forward and made moving in water easy but would have made getting around on land impractical, and powerful forelimbs with giant claws and giant teeth to help catch fish.
The dinosaur also had a set of spikes covered in skin on its back that made a “sail” that would have made quite an impression sticking out of the water. It probably used these for display purposes.
The part of the Morrocan Sahara where the fossils were found, the Kem Kem Beds, is dry now , but during the Cretaceous it was a huge river system that from Morroco to Egypt and was filled with fish, sharks, crocodile-like creatures and predatory dinosaurs like Spinosaurus.
The research team included Nizar Ibrahim and Paul Sereno from the University of Chicago; Cristiano Dal Sasso and Simone Maganuco from the Natural History Museum in Milan, Italy; and Samir Zouhri from the Université Hassan II Casablanca in Morocco.
[Source: University of Chicago]
Artists conception of Spinosaurus by Davide Bonadonna