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Palaeontology

Huge meat-eating dinosaur was 'heron from hell', claims new study

By T.K. Randall
March 10, 2024 · Comment icon 10 comments
Spinosaurus skeleton.
Spinosaurus was absolutely enormous. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Kabacchi
Researchers have solved the mystery of whether or not Spinosaurus was adept at pursuing its prey underwater.
This gargantuan predatory dinosaur, which prowled the waterways of what is now North Africa around 93-99 million years ago, was the longest terrestrial carnivore ever to walk the face of the Earth - measuring up to 46ft in length and weighing in at nearly 7.4 tons.

Whether or not it was actually a strong swimmer remains unclear, but it was thought to have spent a lot of its time in or around rivers and lakes a bit like crocodiles and alligators.

It was also thought to have feasted on both aquatic and terrestrial creatures.

One of the longest running mysteries surrounding Spinosaurus concerns whether it was adept at diving into the water after its prey or if it remained in the shallows and snatched its prey from the water like a heron, but now a new study headed up by experts at the University of Chicago may finally have the answer.
The key to understanding this was to analyze the creature's bone density, revealing that - in all likelihood - Spinosaurus was more of a "heron from hell" than a diving bird.

"We think Spinosaurus, one of the largest predatory animals ever to have evolved, needed extra bone strength to support its weight on its relatively short hind limbs," said lead author Paul Sereno.

"Spinosaurus was able to wade into waterways more than six feet deep without floating, where it could ambush fish of any size with its claws and jaws."

"But all while keeping its toes firmly anchored in the mud."

Source: Eurekalert.org | Comments (10)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Abramelin 1 month ago
Why the big spines? Or better, that large comb on its back? It showed up in much more ancient and more primitive reptiles.  
Comment icon #2 Posted by Piney 1 month ago
Probably because it was semi-aquatic. 
Comment icon #3 Posted by Buzz_Light_Year 1 month ago
Large spines probably helped with heat regulation. A Spinosaurus could probably hunt in colder water for a longer time if they kept their spines out of the water and hunted semi-submerged. 
Comment icon #4 Posted by Abramelin 1 month ago
?? It has always been explained as some kind of temperature regulating thing in far more ancient reptiles. I have always been wondering why this beast would still have this 'comb' on its back, while no other reptile/dinosaur had it.  
Comment icon #5 Posted by Piney 1 month ago
Stegosaurs had something similar and a feature like that wouldn't make it "primitive". Just a convergent.   Stick it up out of the water and soak up some heat while remaining safe from land predators.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Antigonos 1 month ago
Were all species of Spinosaurids semi aquatic? I know several were.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Piney 1 month ago
They certainly had the teeth for fish. @Carnoferox would know.      
Comment icon #8 Posted by Carnoferox 1 month ago
Not all spinosaurids were semiaquatic. Despite what this new paper claims, bone density shows whether or not they were spending a lot of time underwater. Spinosaurus, Baryonyx, and an unnamed Brazilian spinosaurid have very dense bones, suggesting that they were semiaquatic. Suchomimus has less dense bones like other theropods, indicating that it was more terrestrial. https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:264b7ca2-1190-4b76-ab93-074cedf897e1/files/sff3656252 https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.05.05.490811v1.abstract https://sci-hub.se/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Abramelin 1 month ago
Wouldn't that indicate that they were less terrestrial?? Bones get dense because of gravity. Living most or much of the time in water, and the water acting against gravity, would make bones less dense.  
Comment icon #10 Posted by Carnoferox 1 month ago
Most theropods have hollow, air-filled bones which would've made them too buoyant in water. Spinosaurids needed denser bones in order to submerge. The same adaptation is seen in penguins, crocodilians, whales, seals, and sea cows, among others.


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