A new study by Palaeontologists at the University of Southampton suggests that four bones recently found on Wight Island belong to new species of theropod dinosaur, the group that includes the modern-day Tyrannosaurus rex and birds.
The dinosaur lived in the Cretaceous period 115 million years ago and is estimated to have been up to four meters long.
The bones were discovered in the forest at Shanklin last year and are from the neck, back and tail of the young dinosaur, which has been named Vectaerovenator inopinatus.
The name refers to the large airspace in some of the bones, one of the features that helped scientists identify its theropod origin. These air sacs, which are also seen in modern birds, were lung extensions, and it is likely that they helped boost an efficient respiratory system while also making the skeleton lighter.
The fossils were found over a weekly period in 2019 in three separate discoveries, two by individuals and one by a family group, who all submitted their findings to the Museum near the Dinosaur Isle in Sandown.
Scientific study has confirmed that the fossils are most likely from the same individual dinosaur, with the exact location and time of the findings being added 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. He said: “The joy of finding the bones we discovered was absolutely fantastic. I thought they were special and so we got them when we visited the Dinosaur Isle Museum. They immediately knew these were something rare and asked if they could we donated to the museum to be fully explored ”.
James Lockyer, from Spalding, Lincolnshire was also visiting the island when he found another of the bones. Also a regular fossil hunter, he said: “It turned out differently from the marine reptile beads I have encountered in the past. I was looking for a place in Shanklin and I was told and read that I would not find much there. However, I always make sure I look in areas that others do not, and in this case it was paid.
Paul Farrell, from Ryde, Isle of Wight, added: “I was walking along the beach, kicking rocks and came across what looked like bone from a dinosaur. I was really shocked when I discovered it could be a new species.”
After studying the four vertebrae, paleontologists from the University of Southampton confirmed that the bones likely belonged to a dinosaur genus previously unknown to science. Their findings will be published in the journal Papers in Paleeontology, in a co-authored letter from those who discovered the fossils.
Chris Barker, Ph.D. the university student who led the study said: “We were amazed at how wild this animal was – it is full of air spaces. Parts of its skeleton must have been quite delicate.
“The record of theropod dinosaurs from the ‘mid’ Cretaceous period in Europe is not so excellent, so it is really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species from this time.
“Usually you do not find dinosaurs in the Shanklin deposits as they were located in a marine habitat. You are much more likely to find fossil oysters or driftwood, so this is really a rare discovery.”
It is likely that Vectaerovenator lived in an area just north of where her bones were found, with lifeless bodies washed in the shallow sea nearby.
Chris Barker added: “Although we have enough material to be able to determine the general type of dinosaur, we would ideally like to find more to perfect our analysis. We are very grateful for donating these fossils to science and about the important role that civic science can play in paleonology “.
Wight Island is known as one of the leading sites for dinosaur remains in Europe, and new Vectaerovenator fossils will now be on display at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown, which houses an internationally important collection.
The curator of the museum, Dr. Martin Munt, said: “This remarkable discovery of fossils linked by three different individuals and groups will add to the vast collection we have and it is great that we can now confirm their meaning and place them in show for the public to marvel at.
“We continue to take public field trips from the museum and would encourage anyone who finds unusual fossils to bring them so we can take a closer look. However, fossil hunters need to remember to stay in the woods. of the forest, and avoid going near the rocks which are among the most unstable on the island “.
Isle of Wight Council and Environment Council heritage cabinet member Councilor John Hobart said: “This is another terrifying fossil discovery on the island that sheds light on our prehistoric past – let alone be a species entirely add to many amazing items on display at the museum “.
The highly pneumatic work ‘A Cretaceous Medium Theropod’ by The Lower British Greensand ‘by Chris Barker and those who discovered the fossils will be published in Papers in Paleeontology.
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Provided by the University of Southampton
citation: New Dinosaur Species Discovered in Isle of Wight (2020, August 12) Retrieved August 12, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-08-species-dinosaur-isle-wight.html
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