England's Isle of Wight was Isle of Fright, with two big dinosaur predators

Fossils found on a rocky beach show a double problem on the Isle of Wight in England about 127 million years ago, where a pair of previously unknown huge predatory dinosaurs lived side by side, both adapted to hunting along the water’s edge.

Scientists announce the discovery of fossils of two Cretaceous carnivores — each about 30 feet (9 meters) long and featuring long crocodile-like skulls — in the southwest of the island, one of the richest places in Europe for dinosaur remains.

They are examples of a type of dinosaur called Spinosaurus, known for its long, narrow skulls with lots of conical teeth — ideal for catching slippery fish — as well as strong arms and large claws.

  • One is called Ceratosuchops inferodios, meaning “the crocodile-faced hell heron.” The name refers to the heron due to the lifestyle of this bird that searches for food on the shore. Ceratosuchops had a series of low horns and bumps adorning the brow area.
  • The second is called Riparovenator milnerae, meaning “Milner’s riverbank fisherman,” in honor of British paleontologist Angela Milner, who died in August. It was probably a little bigger than Ceratosuchops.

Each is estimated to weigh about a ton to two tons, with skulls around a long yard, according to Chris Parker, a PhD student at the University of Southampton in paleontology and lead author of the study published in Scientific Reports.

“They were both beach heron-style hunters, wading into the water and pushing the head down quickly to grab things like fish, small turtles, etc., and on land they would do something similar, catching small dinosaurs or something,” said the paleontologist and co-author of the study. David Hoon from Queen Mary University of London:

Spinosaurs were part of a wide group of carnivorous, bipedal dinosaurs called theropods that included the likes of Tyrannosaurus rex https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/like-godzilla-actually-real-study-shows-t-rex 25 billion 04-15-2021.

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As semi-aquatic hunters, spinosaurs targeted various prey and lacked the massive boxer skull and large serrated teeth of T.rex, which inhabited North America about 60 million years later.

Ceratocops and Reparofenitor roamed the floodplain environment in a subtropical Mediterranean-like climate.

Wildfires have occasionally ravaged the landscape, as fossils of burnt wood have been found all over the Isle of Wight cliffs.

With a large river and other bodies of water attracting plant-eating dinosaurs and hosting many bony fish, sharks, and crocodiles, the habitat for sharksuchops and reparovenitors provided plenty of hunting opportunities, Parker said.

The researchers said that these two pairs may have lived at the same time, and may have differed in prey preference, or perhaps separated slightly in time. A third roughly contemporary Spinosaurus called Baryonyx, whose fossils were discovered in the 1980s, lived nearby and was about the same size, perhaps slightly smaller.

Partial remains of Ceratosuchops and Riparovenator were discovered near the city of Brighstone. Ceratosuchops is known from both skull and tail material, while Riparovenator is known from both skull and tail material. There are frightening remains of both, which gives an insight into these creatures.

The fossils helped scientists produce a family tree of spinosaurs, suggesting that the lineage originated in Europe before moving to Africa, Asia and South America, according to University of Southampton palaeontologist Neil Jostling, who oversaw the research project.

The largest, Spinosaurus, reached 50 feet (15 meters) in length and lived in North Africa about 95 million years ago. It differed from its Isle of Wight ancestors in that it is distinguished by a large, sail-like structure on its back and adapted to a more aquatic lifestyle. Reuters

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