Scientists in Southampton believe the four bones recently found on the Isle of Wight belong to a new species of theropod dinosaur.
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.
“We were struck by how wild this animal was – it is full of air spaces. Parts of its skeleton must have been quite delicate.” Chris Barker
The dinosaur lived in with chalk 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 got them when we visited the Isle Dinosaur Museum. They immediately knew that these were something rare and asked if we could donate them to the museum for full research. “
James Lockyer, from Spalding, Lincolnshire was also visiting the island when he found another of the bones. A regular fossil hunter, too, said: “It was different 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 to look in areas that others do not, and in this case I was paid.
Paul Farrell, from Ryde, Isle of Wight, added: “I was walking on 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, a doctoral student at the university who led the study, said: “We were struck by how wild this animal was – it is filled with 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 deposits in Shanklin as they were placed in a marine habitat. You are much more likely to find fossil oysters or submerged wood, 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 the donation of these fossils to science and for 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 significance and place them in shows for the public to marvel at.
“We continue to undertake public field trips from the museum and will encourage anyone who finds unusual fossils to enter them so we can take a closer look. However, fossil hunters need to remember to refrain. in the jungle forest and avoid climbing near the rocks that are among the most volatile on the island. “
Isle of Wight Council cabinet member Environment and Heritage Councilor John Hobart said: “This is another terrifying fossil discovery on the island that sheds light on our prehistoric past – let alone being a whole new species. “It will add to the many amazing items on display at the museum.”
Reference: 11 August 2020, Papers in Paleeontology.
An exhibition explaining the new find will be on display at the museum’s main gallery from Wednesday 12 August. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, advance booking is required for museum visitors by calling (01983) 404344.
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. The authors and the University of Southampton have made their findings “open access”.