In May of this year (2021), the excellent Wild Past Tethyshadros pair arrived at Everything Dinosaur. This dinosaur figure set featured two models of the dwarf hadrosauroid from north-eastern Italy, which was formally named and described in 2009.
As team members unpacked these models, a small cardboard box was discovered inside one of the cartons. At the time, this was thought to be part of the packing material, the box being thoughtfully added to ensure the boxes containing the 1:35 scale Tethyshadros models were fully protected. It was put to one side in our warehouse and remained unopened.
A team member came across the box this morning, curious as to what it might contain, it was carefully opened and inside a small model of the dwarf titanosaur Magyarosaurus was discovered.
A Magyarosaurus Figure
Stefan, the German entrepreneur behind the Wild Past brand had included the little model as a gift, a token of appreciation for the support and assistance provided by Everything Dinosaur.
A note from Stefan accompanying the Magyarosaurus model was also discovered, the note said:
“Additionally, to the delivery I send you a small thank you for your ongoing support. It is our little 1:35 Magyarosaurus resin model. Hope you like it”.
Dwarf Titanosaur from the Hateg Basin
The Magyarosaurus genus has one certain species assigned to it (M. dacus), although slightly larger fossil material has been assigned to a second species – Magyarosaurus hungaricus but these fossils might represent a separate taxon. The beautiful model demonstrates the skill and creativity of Wild Past. The team members at Everything Dinosaur were delighted to receive their gift.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“It was very kind of Stefan to include this token of appreciation amongst the Tethyshadros models. We have emailed him and thanked him for his gift and apologised for the tardiness of our response. We did not open the box containing the model and his note until this morning”.
Scientists have described the oldest theropod dinosaur from the UK. The dinosaur has been named Pendraig milnerae, the scientific name honours the dinosaur’s Welsh roots and recognises the contribution of Dr Angela Milner, who sadly passed away last August.
Everything Dinosaur recently blogged about the naming of two spinosaurids described from fragmentary fossils found on the Isle of Wight. The trivial name of one of these theropods, Riparovenator milnerae, also honours Dr Milner.
Ironically, the remains of Pendraig were already ancient fossils when the Isle of Wight spinosaurids roamed. The Pendraig fossils come from limestone fissure fills of the Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry in the Vale of Glamorgan (Wales). This infilled material, deposited in Carboniferous limestone is difficult to date, but it is thought that these fossils are between 215 and 201 million years old (late Norian, latest occurrence possibly late Rhaetian).
Misplaced Theropod Fossils
Writing in Royal Society Open Science, the researchers from the London Natural History Museum, the University of Birmingham and National Museums Scotland describe Pendraig milnerae based on an articulated pelvic girdle, sacrum and posterior dorsal vertebrae, and an associated left femur and by two referred specimens, comprising an isolated dorsal vertebra and a partial left ischium.
Co-author of the paper, Dr Susannah Maidment (London Natural History Museum), explained that the fossil material had been stored in a draw that contained crocodylomorphs. It was Dr Milner who was able to find the fossils within the vast Natural History Museum collection and to retrieve an unpublished PhD paper that had referred to them as part of a wider review of archosaurian remains associated with South Wales.
A phylogenetic analysis indicates that was a P. milnerae non-coelophysid coelophysoid and it represents the first-named, unambiguous theropod from the Triassic of the UK. The genus name translates from Middle Welsh as “chief dragon”. During the Late Triassic, the dinosaurs were not the dominant terrestrial animals that they were later to become. Discoveries of Triassic-aged theropods can help palaeontologists to better understand the evolution of these important tetrapods, the dinosaur lineage that led directly to modern birds.
Wales might be associated with dragons, but dinosaur discoveries are extremely rare in this part of the UK. Previously, only two dinosaur genera have been named – Pantydraco (P. cauducus) a basal sauropodomorph from a limestone fissure infill from the Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry and the coelophysoid Dracoraptor (D. hanigani) which was named and described in 2016 from fossils found near the Welsh town of Penarth.
An Insular Dwarf
The palaeoenvironment in which Pendraig lived was most likely an archipelago and species that live on small islands with limited resources can become smaller than their mainland relatives due to a phenomenon known as insular dwarfism.
Measuring around 75 cm to a metre in length P. milnerae was indeed small, a characteristic that it shares with a number of other vertebrates known from the same deposits.
Lead author of the paper, Dr Stephan Spiekman (London Natural History Museum), explained:
“Because the fossil reptiles from this area, including Pendraig, are all quite small-sized, we used statistical analyses to investigate whether Pendraig might have been an insular dwarf. The results indicate that Pendraig is indeed small, even for a theropod of that time period, but not uniquely so”.
Analysis of the fossil bones, indicate that the material does not represent a juvenile or very young animal. However, the fossils do represent an animal that was probably not fully grown when it died.
The researchers conclude that Pendraig may have been a dwarf form but as some other coelophysoid taxa also show a similar size reduction (based on femur bone length comparisons), it is not possible to say with certainty that this little Welsh, Triassic dinosaur was indeed an insular dwarf.
Dr Spiekman added:
“With this in mind, we need more evidence from more species to investigate the potential for island dwarfism in this area during that time, but if we could prove it, it would be the earliest known occurrence of this evolutionary phenomenon”.
The scientific paper: “Pendraig milnerae, a new small-sized coelophysoid theropod from the Late Triassic of Wales” by Stephan N. F. Spiekman, Martín D. Ezcurra, Richard J. Butler, Nicholas C. Fraser and Susannah C. R. Maidment published in Royal Society Open Science.
A new piece of public art has been unveiled within the direct sightline of a huge dinosaur sculpture that was destroyed by fire on Southsea Common ten years ago this week.
The installation consists of a bronze statue of the original “Southsea Dinosaur” sitting atop a plinth made from highly fossiliferous Portland Stone. In addition to key information about the work, a plaque on the sculpture’s plinth features a QR code which when scanned with a smartphone connects to an Augmented Reality experience, showing a digital rendering of the original, 22-metre-long dinosaur artwork seemingly in front of the user, on Southsea Common accompanied by the sounds of Portsmouth City Band, who attended the original launch. Viewers will also be able to visit Aspex’s website to visit a digital archive of memories contributed by the general public in honour of the original artwork including a video of the 2010 opening ceremony.
The Luna Park Dinosaur
In the summer of 2010, Everything Dinosaur team members reported upon the installation of a giant sculpture of a plant-eating dinosaur named Luna Park being erected on Southsea Common (Portsmouth, England). The massive statue, created by Studio Morison, stood 16 metres tall. It was so large that it could be seen from the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately, a fire in October 2010 completely destroyed this local landmark.
The art project was commissioned by Aspex, Portsmouth’s contemporary art gallery, currently celebrating its 40-year anniversary with a programme of contemporary art activities: “Aspex (life begins) at 40” at the gallery and on-line. The sculpture is the centrepiece of the gallery’s anniversary celebrations.
Commenting on the unveiling of the artwork to commemorate the original Southsea dinosaur, Joanne Bushell (Director of Aspex), stated:
“We are thrilled to be able to share this work – over a decade after the original Luna Park was installed on Southsea Common. The artwork is firmly and fondly lodged in the memories of local people and lives on through younger generations as a kind of myth or local legend. I stand for language. I speak for truth. I shout for history is part of Portsmouth’s heritage and we are delighted to be unveiling it this Autumn. It is hoped that the piece will generate new memories for people who live here and those visiting Portsmouth”.
A new species of horned dinosaur has been named and described from fossils found in New Mexico. The dinosaur has been named Sierraceratops turneri and it was distantly related to Triceratops.
The new horned dinosaur classified as a member of the Chasmosaurinae, roamed New Mexico approximately 72 million years ago (latest Campanian–Maastrichtian). Sierraceratops adds to the diversity and disparity of the Chasmosaurinae in the Late Cretaceous. This discovery provides supporting evidence for the hypothesis of Laramidian endemism – the idea that species were restricted to specific regions. Together with Sierraceratops, the Hall Lake Formation dinosaur fauna suggests that the latest Cretaceous of southern Laramidia was characterised by endemic clades and distinct dinosaur communities.
From Sierra County, New Mexico
The first fossil material associated with this new horned dinosaur, was discovered in 1997 by Greg H. Mack of New Mexico State University whilst undertaking a geological survey. Most of the fossils were collected from the surface, having already weathered out of the surrounding rock, but a field team from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History was despatched and additional fossils were found. The remainder of the fossil material that led to the naming of Sierraceratops was excavated between 2014-2016 by other field teams sent out to the site by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. The fossils include elements from the skull and jaws, along with two neckbones (cervicals), two dorsal vertebrae, the sacrum, scapulocoracoid, the ilium and limb bones. The genus name honours Sierra County where the fossils were found, whilst the species name is a tribute to Mr Ted Turner, the founder of the Cable News Network (CNN) who owned the land where the fossils were collected.
Distinct Dinosaur Regional Communities
Phylogenetic analysis suggests that Sierraceratops is a sister taxon to Bravoceratops and Coahuilaceratops, forming part of a clade endemic to the southwestern United States and Mexico. Sierraceratops adds to the diversity and disparity of the Chasmosaurinae in the Late Cretaceous and provides supporting evidence for the hypothesis of Laramidian endemism. Dinosaur fossils from the Hall Lake Formation suggest that the dinosaur biota of southern Laramida was characterised by distinct dinosaur communities. Similar types of dinosaurs could be found in other areas, but the genera were distinctive.
Recent Discoveries of Horned Dinosaurs from New Mexico
New Mexico has proved to be a happy hunting ground for new ceratopsid discoveries in recent years. For example, some of the authors of the Sierraceratops paper also worked on the publication describing Menefeeceratops (M. sealeyi), from the Menefee Formation. Menefeeceratops roamed New Mexico some 10 million years before Sierraceratops evolved. As Menefeeceratops has been classified as a member of the Centrosaurinae and Sierraceratops is regarded as a chasmosaurine, these two horned dinosaurs were only distantly related.
Sierraceratops turneri – Tyrannosaurs and Titanosaurs
Based on a comparison with better-known chasmosaurine fossil specimens, Sierraceratops is estimated to have measured around five metres in length. Its skull would have been around 1.5 metres long. The scientists behind this research, including Dr Nicholas Longrich (senior lecturer in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath), predict that several more new dinosaurs will be described from Laramidia.
Sierraceratops shared its lush, floodplain and swamp environment with other dinosaurs including giant titanosaurs and predatory tyrannosaurids. It also highly likely that Sierraceratops was contemporaneous with other plant-eating dinosaurs such as hadrosaurids and ankylosaurids. Fossil evidence for both armoured dinosaurs and duck-billed dinosaurs have been found in other Hall Lake Formation sediments but their stratigraphical relationship to the Sierraceratops material remains undetermined.
Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Bath in the compilation of this article.
The scientific paper: “Sierraceratops turneri, a new chasmosaurine ceratopsid from the Hall Lake Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of south-central New Mexico” by Sebastian G. Dalman, Spencer G Lucas, Steven E. Jasinski and Nicholas R. Longrich published in Cretaceous Research.
The excellent Dino Hazard Irritator challengeri dinosaur model is in stock at Everything Dinosaur. The replica of a Brazilian dinosaur, created by a Brazilian design team has reached our warehouse and prehistoric animal model collectors can now acquire this figure from a 5-star rated supplier.
Team members at the UK-based company secured a sample of this dinosaur figure which then went into product testing with the independent product testing company Eurofins. The figure may be designed for collectors over 14 years of age and it might be marketed as a 14+ figure but Everything Dinosaur prudently took the decision to get this model assessed under the General Product Safety Directive, before committing to stocking it. After all, consumer safety and the well-being of our customers are matters that Everything Dinosaur takes very seriously.
We documented our testing work on the Dino Hazard Irritator challengeri figure in a series of posts and YouTube videos.
A 1:20 Scale Theropod Model
The impressive theropod model measures around 37 cm in length and the optional display base is approximately 19 cm long and 8 cm in width at its widest part. YvY Figures who are the company behind the Dino Hazard brand state that the Irritator figure is in approximately 1:20 scale.
Optional Display Base
Whilst there is much to be admired in the details on the display base, the model does not sit well in the footprints. Everything Dinosaur advises that if collectors want to display this figure on the base, then steps are taken to ensure that the figure is permanently fixed to the base. It should be noted that the dinosaur model was designed with the appropriate weight distribution and it can stand without the base.
Dino Hazard Irritator challengeri Model
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:
“This is the first prehistoric animal figure under the Dino Hazard brand, more figures are planned including an excellent Carcharodontosaurus model. We have offered our assistance to YvY Figures and already provided them with advice to help get this second project off the ground and running. As for the Dino Hazard Irritator challengeri model, we are delighted to act as a legal importer and distributor for this excellent figure”.
For the time being, the Dino Hazard Irritator has been placed in the W-Dragon section of the Everything Dinosaur website, this has been done until YvY Figures have more models in their inventory so we can provide a dedicated product section for the Dino Hazard brand.
PNSO are to add a model of the giant, prehistoric, toothed whale known as Livyatan to its mid-size model range. The figure, Requena the Livyatan is likely to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur sometime in mid to late November.
PNSO Requena the Livyatan
Named and described in 2010 (L. melvillei), Livyatan is known from the Pisco Formation of Peru, although isolated fossil teeth indicate that it may have ranged over much of the Southern Hemisphere. The species name honours the American author Herman Melville who wrote “Moby Dick”, an epic story of the quest to hunt a giant, white sperm whale. The novel was first published in October 1851, now almost exactly 170 years later, PNSO have introduced a replica of this huge cetacean, one of the largest predators of all time.
Livyatan Model Measurements
The new PNSO prehistoric whale figure measures an impressive 32 cm in length. The tip of the small dorsal fin stands some 8.5 cm off the ground. Given the curve of the body of the model, PNSO state that the actual length of the figure is over 36.5 cm. Livyatan is only known from skull material and isolated teeth. Palaeontologists are not sure how big this prehistoric whale from the Miocene Epoch was. Size estimates vary between 13.5 metres and 18 metres long.
PNSO does not publish a scale for their mid-size models, however, based on the stated curved length of the model, team members at Everything Dinosaur estimate that the PNSO Requena the Livyatan replica is between 1:36 and 1:49 scale.
In Stock at Everything Dinosaur November 2021
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur confirmed that they had known about this model for a while. However, they wanted PNSO to make the official announcement before commenting.
The spokesperson added:
“We have known about PNSO model plans for some time. It is wonderful to have a replica of a prehistoric whale added to the PNSO model range, especially since this company has already produced a model of the contemporaneous prehistoric shark Otodus which is better known as Megalodon.”
Supplied with Support Stands
The PNSO Requena the Livyatan model is supplied with two transparent support stands to help this prehistoric whale figure to be displayed.
The spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur added, that they had received requests from many prehistoric animal model collectors to lobby for more prehistoric mammals to be added to ranges. The addition of a Livyatan replica, the first mainstream model of this giant, prehistoric whale to have been produced, is exactly what many model collectors have been looking for.
The PNSO Requena the Livyatan model is likely to be in stock mid to late November 2021.
PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Prehistoric Animal Models
To view the range of PNSO prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.
All Hallows Eve is fast approaching. Halloween a time of spooky stories, murderous monsters and scary skeletons, all harmless fun but 66 million years ago real monsters roamed our planet and one of the most frightening of them all was Tyrannosaurus rex, a giant carnivorous dinosaur that could have swallowed a small child in one gulp!
Visitors to Wollaton Park in Nottinghamshire will get the chance to experience the fearsome T. rex up close as “Titus the T. rex is King” exhibit will be open this October half-term. Staff members have laid on a separate spooky skeleton trail in the grounds and the Deer Park, as the stunning Grade I listed mansion gets ready for the bewitching hours.
“Titus the T. rex is King” Exhibition
Covering some 4,000 square feet across four exhibition galleries, visitors to the “Titus the T. rex is King” exhibit will get the chance to view a skeleton of the “tyrant lizard king”, complete with its terrifying, bone-crushing teeth. Experience the excavation, fossil study and preparation, examination and the rebuilding of one of the largest, land predators of all time. Some monsters might be imaginary, but this cleverly constructed exhibition tells the story of a living animal and the actual T. rex fossil bones incorporated within the display provide an insight into the life of an apex predator, a giant reptile, the last of its kind, the result of over 100 million years of evolution which resulted in a 7-tonne dinosaur with super senses tuned to hunting and killing.
A Bone-chilling Journey of Discovery
Set to excite and engage all ages with digital and interactive virtual media displays, the exhibition allows visitors to dig for dinosaur bones, unpack the skeleton anatomically and re-create Titus. To further prepare young visitors for perhaps encountering a terrifying T. rex one day, Wollaton Hall’s Learning & Education team are running a series of dinosaur themed Family Workshops which will be available during the October half-term.
Nottingham City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, Cllr Eunice Campbell-Clark, commented:
“We are thrilled that the exhibition Titus: T. rex is King enables families to experience a real life skeleton of a T. rex, and discover and explore Natural History, evolution and the environment. It has been enjoyed by local residents and visitors from far afield, and if you haven’t visited already, what better time to see the skeleton of a giant dinosaur than at Halloween!”
Halloween Fun at Wollaton Hall
Wollaton Park will also see the return of the Traditional Rides fair with a Halloween twist and fair food, including mushy peas, burgers, hot dogs, bonfire marshmallow milkshakes and pumpkin spiced lattes in the café kiosk for a variety of Halloween fun this October half-term.
Rachael Evans, Museums Development Manager at Nottingham City Museums added:
“Coming face to face with an actual T. rex is an experience very few in the world can claim. Even in skeleton form, Titus’ power and presence is unmistakable – we have had to dedicate the largest room at Wollaton Hall just to him alone. Titus T. rex is King will take you on a truly unique journey discovering all there is to know about this dinosaur – the largest predator in its ecosystem. The sheer size and scale of the skeleton takes your breath away. It is a truly an amazing discovery and an absolute must-see.”
Tickets and Details
Tickets for “Titus T. rex is King” are on sale now (October 2021). Priced at £13 for an adult, £8.75 for a child (under 16 years), students and concessions, £34 for a family ticket (two adults and two children under 16 years) and under 3s and carers have no entry fees to pay. (Includes booking fee).
Family Workshops tickets vary based on the activity. The ‘skeleton’ outdoor trail is available in Wollaton Hall’s shops & cafés for £2.
Fossils discovered on a beach by a group of school children on a field trip have been identified as a new species of giant, prehistoric penguin. The 1.4-metre-tall bird has been named Kairuku waewaeroa and it hunted fish in the waters off New Zealand’s North Island some 30 million years ago.
The ancestors of today’s penguins ( Sphenisciformes), probably lived alongside those other famous archosaurs – the Dinosauria Penguins Probably Lived Alongside Dinosaurs. Fossils of penguins are known from the Palaeocene and over the last few years, palaeontologists have been able to build up arguably, the most complete and continuous fossil record of any type of bird. The new giant penguin K. waewaeroa comes from the Glen Massey Formation and the fossils found by the school children on a Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (JUNATS) field trip to Kawhia Harbour, North Island in 2006, represents one of the most complete prehistoric penguin specimens found to date.
CT Scans Used to Create Three-dimensional Models
The partially articulated fossil material consisting of limb bones, cervical vertebrae and the pelvis preserved in a single block was presented to Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand in 2017. The research team studying the fossil bones, who included Simone Giovanardi and Daniel Thomas (Massey University, Auckland) and Daniel Ksepka (Connecticut, USA), used CT scans to create three-dimensional computer models. These computer models could then be used to make a 3D-printed replica which was presented to the Hamilton Junior Naturalists.
Giant Penguin with Long Legs
Co-author of the scientific paper, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Dr Daniel Thomas (School of Natural and Computational Sciences at Massey University), stated the fossil dates from between 27.3 and 34.6 million years ago, a time when much of this area of North Island was underwater.
The Senior Lecturer in Zoology added:
“The penguin is similar to the Kairuku giant penguins first described from Otago but has much longer legs, which the researchers used to name the penguin waewaeroa – Te reo Māori for “long legs”. These longer legs would have made the penguin much taller than other Kairuku while it was walking on land, perhaps around 1.4 metres tall and may have influenced how fast it could swim or how deep it could dive.”
The scientific paper: “A giant Oligocene fossil penguin from the North Island of New Zealand” by Simone Giovanardi, Daniel T. Ksepka and Daniel B. Thomas published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Renowned dinosaur expert Darren Naish has produced a pocket guide to all things dinosaur. Entitled “Dinopedia” it’s a reader-friendly compendium packed full of facts about the Dinosauria. It is a handy A-Z updating dinosaur fans and those with a general interest in natural history on the fascinating and ever-changing world of dinosaur research.
The book has the feel of a real labour of love, the author sharing his passion for palaeontology with the general reader. Even the horned dinosaur on the front cover seems to be smiling.
Princeton University Press
Published by Princeton University Press (UK release scheduled for October 5th, American release scheduled for November 30th, 2021), this is another in a long line of publications from this publisher with close links to the academic world. Darren himself is the author of many books, several on the bookshelves of Everything Dinosaur, but “Dinopedia” is a little different.
The hand-drawn illustrations give this compendium a very personal feel, as does the binding which is a figured cloth design, the binding decorated with embossed images and text. It takes the reader back to a simpler time, before the internet and cyberspace when textbooks were the only source of reference.
Subtitled “A Brief Compendium of Dinosaur Lore”, Darren gently guides the reader through the diverse and eclectic world of the Dinosauria. He outlines the different types of dinosaur focusing on the family or subfamily level of taxonomy with only a few specific genera such as Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus having specific entries. After all, these two theropods play an important role in helping to understand how our perceptions about dinosaurs have altered and this is a key theme of this book, the author providing an insight into how our understanding of dinosaur evolution has changed in recent times.
Dinosaurs and Popular Culture
As well as outlining the contribution made to palaeontology by a number of scientists, the author discusses the cultural impact of the Dinosauria. Sandwiched between a reprise on the ornithopod Iguanodon and an explanation of the K-Pg mass extinction event there is an entry dedicated to the film “Jurassic Park” which spawned a whole new generation of dinosaur fans.
The book is an ideal stocking filler for those obsessed with the “terrible lizards”, and we at Everything Dinosaur recommend it. “Dinopedia” would make a wonderful Christmas gift.
For more details about “Dinopedia” and to pre-order/purchase visit: Princeton University Press and search the website for “Dinopedia” or the author “Darren Naish”.
Spinosaurids are like buses, you wait for ages for one to come along and then two arrive together. Today, we can announce that two new members of the Baryonychinae have been named and described from fossil remains found on the Isle of Wight. Named Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae, their discovery supports the idea of a European origin for the Spinosauridae and suggests that different types of fish-eating dinosaur could happily co-exist in the same palaeoenvironments.
Spinosaurs Had Been Expected
Palaeontologists had long suspected that there were more spinosaurid dinosaurs awaiting discovery in the Lower Cretaceous Wealden Supergroup of southern England. The strata were deposited over large flood plains during the late Berriasian and early Aptian stages of the Early Cretaceous and fragmentary fossils, mostly isolated teeth representing spinosaurids have been found. These fossils were usually ascribed to Baryonyx, which was formally named and described in 1986 and provided scientists with the first significant evidence of the body plan and diet of these specialised theropods.
The fossil material was collected by Brian Foster from Yorkshire and Jeremy Lockwood who lives on the Isle of Wight in collaboration with several other local collectors and fossil enthusiasts, from the beach at Chilton Chine from 2013 to 2017, the rapidly eroding cliffs exposed the fossils and it is thanks to this dedicated group of amateur fossil hunters that these important specimens were saved from being washed away by the sea. More than fifty fossil bones were recovered from the site, including a partial tail which was excavated by a field team from the Dinosaur Isle Museum.
Analysis of Bones Undertaken by the University of Southampton
Analysis of the bones carried out at the University of Southampton and published this week in the journal “Scientific Reports” has led to the establishment of two new species of spinosaurids, which have been named Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae. Although related to Baryonyx (B. walkeri), these two new theropods might be more closely related to Suchomimus from Africa.
Scientists estimate that Ceratosuchops and Riparovenator were around 9 metres in length and their crocodilian-like skulls were about a metre long.
Phylogenetic and Bayesian statistical analysis suggests that Ceratosuchops and Riparovenator are sister taxa and more closely related to Suchomimus than they are to Baryonyx but work on the taxonomy of the Spinosauridae is hampered by a lack of fossil material permitting direct comparison between genera. Most palaeontologists split the Spinosauridae into two separate clades, the Spinosaurinae which includes taxa such as Spinosaurus, Ichthyovenator and Irritator and the Baryonychinae. Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparovenator milnerae have been classified as baryonychids along with Baryonyx, Suchomimus and an as yet unnamed taxon from Portugal (ML 1190).
University of Southampton PhD student, Chris Barker, the lead author of the study commented:
“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.”
The first specimen has been named Ceratosuchops inferodios, which translates from the Latin as the “horned crocodile-faced hell heron”. With a series of low horns and bumps ornamenting the brow region the name also refers to the predator’s likely hunting style, which would be similar to that of a (terrifying) heron. Herons famously catch aquatic prey around the margins of waterways but their diet is far more flexible than is generally appreciated and can include terrestrial prey too.
The second new species to be named Riparovenator milnerae, translates from the Latin as “Milner’s riverbank hunter”, the species name honours the highly influential British palaeontologist Angela Milner who sadly, passed away in August. Angela, along with her colleague Alan Charig, studied and named Baryonyx (B. walkeri) and her work at the London Natural History Museum has done much to improve our understanding of theropod dinosaurs. It seems a fitting tribute to Dr Milner, for someone who was so involved in helping us to understand Baryonychids that a member of the Baryonychinae should be named in her honour.
Many Large Predators in the Ecosystem
When looking at modern food webs, the number of large predators is normally limited by the available range of prey items and other resources such as space for territories and suitable breeding sites. Whilst there are many predators on the African plains, the apex predatory position tends to be occupied by just one species – Panthera leo (lion). In the forests of India, it is another big cat that occupies the apex predator position Panthera tigris (tigers). In several dinosaur dominated ecosystems another picture emerges, where at least two, equally sized and contemporaneous large theropods seem to occupy the apex predator role. Major dinosaur-fossil-bearing geological formations have revealed that several different types of large, carnivorous dinosaur co-existed.
Examples of Multiple Types of Theropod Dinosaur Predator from a Single Geological Formation
Dinosaur Park Formation (Canada – Upper Cretaceous) – Daspletosaurus and Gorgosaurus.
Morrison Formation (Western United States – Upper Jurassic) – Torvosaurus, Allosaurus, Saurophaganax, Ceratosaurus, Marshosaurus etc.
Lourinhã Formation (Portugal – Upper Jurassic) – Lourinhanosaurus, Torvosaurus, Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, plus possible megalosauroids and abelisaurids.
Huincul Formation (Argentina – early Upper Cretaceous) – Mapusaurus, Gualicho, Skorpiovenator etc.
Shaximiao Formation (China – Middle to Upper Jurassic) – Sinraptor, Yangchuanosaurus, Gasosaurus, along with megalosauroids and other metriacanthosaurids.
Commenting on this phenomenon co-author of the scientific paper Dr David Hone (Queen Mary University) stated:
“It might sound odd to have two similar and closely related carnivores in an ecosystem, but this is actually very common for both dinosaurs and numerous living ecosystems.”
The presence of two or more spinosaurid taxa in the same geological unit (Wessex Formation) is therefore not without precedent and may in fact be typical. Furthermore, the Wessex Formation has revealed several other completely unrelated theropods that shared the environment with the spinosaurids, Eotyrannus (tyrannosauroid), the allosauroid Neovenator and at least one other, as yet unnamed large tetanuran.
Early spinosaurids may have been more generalist hunters, eating a varied diet, including fish and terrestrial prey. Only later did more specialised taxa adapted to underwater pursuit predation evolve, such as Spinosaurus. However, the degree of specialisation to an aquatic life in spinosaurids remains hotly debated and the evolutionary sequence by which aquatic adaptations came about remains unknown.
A European Origin for the Spinosauridae?
The discovery of these two new members of the Spinosauridae family and the subsequent analysis conducted by the research team supports the theory of a European origin for this family of theropods. They postulate that spinosaurs first evolved in Europe and dispersed into Asia and Western Gondwana (northern Africa and Brazil) during the first half of the Early Cretaceous. The range over which these types of dinosaurs roamed then begins to contract, by the Cenomanian faunal stage, spinosaurids are only present in north Africa.
New fossil discoveries might change our understanding of the origins and eventual extinction of these enigmatic carnivorous dinosaurs, but based on the current fossil record, rising sea levels during the Cenomanian may have reduced the number of suitable habitats available. This may have contributed to the extinction of the Spinosauridae.
Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the University of Southampton in the compilation of this article.
The scientific paper: “New spinosaurids from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous, UK) and the European origins of Spinosauridae” by Chris T. Barker, David W. E. Hone, Darren Naish, Andrea Cau, Jeremy A. F. Lockwood, Brian Foster, Claire E. Clarkin, Philipp Schneider and Neil J. Gostling published in Scientific Reports.