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Remains of Europe’s largest ever land predator dinosaur found on Isle of Wight

Close up of the anterior tail (left) and dorsal vertebrae (right) (Chris Barker/University of Southampton/PA)
Close up of the anterior tail (left) and dorsal vertebrae (right) (Chris Barker/University of Southampton/PA)

The remains of Europe’s largest ever land-based hunter which measured more than 10 metres long and lived 125 million years ago have been found on the Isle of Wight.

Several prehistoric bones belonging to the two-legged, crocodile-faced spinosaurid dinosaur were discovered on the island off the south coast of England and have been analysed by scientists from the University of Southampton.

The spinosurid would have lived at the beginning of a period of rising sea levels and would have stalked lagoonal waters and sandflats in search of food.

PhD student Chris Barker said: “This was a huge animal, exceeding 10m (32.8ft) in length and probably several tonnes in weight.

“Judging from some of the dimensions, it appears to represent one of the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe – maybe even the biggest yet known.

“It’s a shame it’s only known from a small amount of material, but these are enough to show it was an immense creature.”

How the best preserved bones would have been positioned on the spinosaurid’s giant body (Chris Barker/Dan Folkes/University of Southampton/PA)

The discovered bones of the ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ – named as such because of the geological layer in which the remains were found – include huge pelvic and tail vertebrae.

They were found by dinosaur hunter Nick Chase, who has since died, near Compton Chine, on the south-west coast of the Isle of Wight in the Vectis Formation geological structure and are now on display in the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown.

Dr Neil Gostling, corresponding author of the study published in the journal PeerJ, said: “Unusually, this specimen eroded out of the Vectis Formation, which is notoriously poor in dinosaur fossils.

“It’s likely to be the youngest spinosaur material yet known from the UK.”

Co-author Darren Naish said: “This new animal bolsters our previous argument – published last year – that spinosaurid dinosaurs originated and diversified in western Europe before becoming more widespread.

“We hope that additional remains will turn up in time.

“Because it’s only known from fragments at the moment, we haven’t given it a formal scientific name,” Mr Naish added.

“We hope that additional remains will turn up in time.“

The scientists suggest that marks on the bone including little tunnels bored into a lump of pelvis, show that the body of the giant dinosaur would have been picked over by scavengers and decomposers after it had died.

Co-author Jeremy Lockwood, a PhD student at the University of Portsmouth and Natural History Museum, said: “We think they were caused by bone eating larvae of a type of scavenging beetle.

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

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