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Nature

“Crocodile-Faced Hell Heron” Dinosaur Among Two New Spinosaurids Discovered

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Francesca Benson

Junior Copy Editor and Staff Writer

clockSep 29 2021, 16:34 UTC
new spinosaurids

Artists' impressions of the Spinosaurids. Ceratosuchops inferodios in the foreground, Riparovenator milnerae in the background. Image Credit: Anthony Hutchings

Two dinosaur species previously unknown to science have been identified after an analysis of over 50 bones collected on the beaches of the Isle of Wight, England.

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These dinosaurs are spinosaurids, closely related to the humongous predator Spinosaurus. The researchers on the new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, estimate that these newly identified predatory species were about 9 meters (29.5 feet) long.

Silhouettes showing the bones discovered. Ceratosuchops inferodios in the foreground, Riparovenator milnerae in the backgroundAnthony Hutchings
Silhouettes showing the bones discovered. Ceratosuchops inferodios in the foreground, Riparovenator milnerae in the background. Image Credit: Barker et al 2021 and Dan Folkes 

One species is called Ceratosuchops inferodios, translating to the absolutely brilliant name “horned crocodile-faced hell heron.” This is a reference to its bumpy skull and “presumed heron-like” hunting style.

The other species is named Riparovenator milnerae. This translates to “Milner’s riverbank hunter,” a tribute to paleontologist Dr Angela Milner who passed away in August. Milner studied the only other spinosaurid previously found in the UK, discovered in a quarry in Surrey in 1983, and gave it the name Baryonyx walkeri.

“We've known for a couple of decades now that Baryonyx-like dinosaurs awaited [discovery] on the Isle of Wight, but finding the remains of two such animals in close succession was a huge surprise,” said study co-author Darren Naish, British theropod dinosaur expert, in a statement.

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“We found the skulls to differ not only from Baryonyx, but also one another, suggesting the UK housed a greater diversity of spinosaurids than previously thought,” added lead author Chris Barker, a PhD student at the University of Southampton.

The remains were unearthed between 2013 and 2017. The area they came from – located in Chilton Chine, a deep and narrow ravine by the Isle of Wight’s southwest coast – dates back 125 million years to the Early Cretaceous. At this time, the area is thought to have been a floodplain, with plenty of aquatic morsels for the spinosaurids to snack on.

 3D Scan of Riparovenator milnerae snout. Credit: Replicate 3D

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The bones were found over the years by fossil collectors and a crew from the Dinosaur Isle Museum, where the incomplete skeletons are due to go on display.

“On behalf of the museum I wish to express our gratitude to the collectors, including colleagues at the museum, who have made these amazing finds, and made them available for scientific research,” said Dr Martin Munt, Curator of Dinosaur Isle Museum.

Co-author Jeremy Lockwood, who discovered some of the bones, said that “we realised after the two snouts were found that this would be something rare and unusual. Then it just got more and more amazing as several collectors found and donated other parts of this enormous jigsaw to the museum.”

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“This is the rarest and most exciting find I’ve made in over 30 years of fossil collecting,” added co-author and fossil collector Brian Foster.


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