A new species of dinosaur has been discovered in the Isle of Wight.
Paleontologists at the University of Southampton believe the four bones found at Shanklin last year belong to a new species of theropod dinosaur.
It lived in the Cretan period, 115 million years ago, and is estimated to have been up to 4 million (13ft) long.
Hassht named Vectaerovenator inopinatus and belongs to the group of dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and modern day birds.
The name refers to the large airspace found in some of the bones – from the neck, back and tail of the creature – which is one of the features that helped scientists identify its theropod origin.
These air sacs, which have also been seen in modern birds, were lung extensions, and it is likely that they “helped fuel an efficient respiratory system while also making the skeleton lighter,” the University of Southampton said.
The fossils were found in three separate discoveries in 2019 and were handed over to the nearby Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown, where they are on display.
Robin Ward, a regular fossil hunter from Stratford-upon-Avon, was visiting the Isle of Wight with his family when they made their discovery.
“The joy of finding the bones we discovered was absolutely fantastic,” he said.
James Lockyer, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, was also visiting the island when he found another of the bones.
“It looked different from the marine vertebrae of reptiles I have encountered in the past,” he said.
“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 to look in areas that others do not, and on this occasion it was paid.”
Paul Farrell, from Ryde, 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.”
Chris Barker, who led the study at the University of Southampton, said: “We were shocked at how wild this animal was – it is full of airspace.
“Parts of her skeleton had to be 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.
The university findings will be published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology and co-authored by those who discovered the fossils.