Friday, December 4, 2020

Spalding man among finders of bones belonging to a new dinosaur

A Spalding native is among the recent finders of dinosaur bones which experts believe belongs to a new species of dinosaur.

Palaeontologists from the University of Southampton say that the four bones recently found on the Isle of Wight belong to new species of theropod dinosaur – the group that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and modern-day birds.

The dinosaur lived in the Cretaceous period 115 million years ago and is estimated to have been up to four metres long.

The bones were discovered on the foreshore at Shanklin last year and are from the neck, back and tail of the new dinosaur, which has been named Vectaerovenator inopinatus.

The fossils were found over a period of weeks in 2019 in three separate discoveries, two by individuals and one by a family group, who all handed in their finds to the nearby Dinosaur Isle Museum at Sandown.

The scientific study has confirmed the fossils are very likely to be from the same individual dinosaur, with the exact location and timing of the finds adding to this belief.

Robin Ward, a regular fossil hunter from Stratford-upon-Avon, was with his family visiting the Isle of Wight when they made their discovery.

Another regular fossil hunter, James Lockyer, from Spalding, was also visiting the Island when he found another of the bones.

“It looked different from marine reptile vertebrae I have come across in the past. I was searching a spot at Shanklin and had been told and read that I wouldn’t find much there.” He said. “However, I always make sure I search the areas others do not, and on this occasion it paid off.”

After studying the four vertebrae, palaeontologists confirmed that the bones are likely to belong to a Genus of dinosaur previously unknown to science. Their findings will be published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology, in a paper co-authored by those who discovered the fossils.

Chris Barker, a PhD student at the university who led the study, said: “We were struck by just how hollow this animal was – it’s riddled with air spaces. Parts of its skeleton must have been rather delicate.

“The record of theropod dinosaurs from the ‘mid’ Cretaceous period in Europe isn’t that great, so it’s been really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species from this time.

“You don’t usually find dinosaurs in the deposits at Shanklin as they were laid down in a marine habitat. You’re much more likely to find fossil oysters or drift wood, so this is a rare find indeed.”

It is likely that the Vectaerovenator lived in an area just north of where its remains were found, with the carcass having washed out into the shallow sea nearby.

Image credit: The University of Southampton 

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