Scientists have discovered what they believe to be a new species of theropod dinosaur – making it a close relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. A group of researchers said they recently discovered rare bones in the UK that appear to belong to iconic species.
Paleontologists at the University of Southampton said they recently analyzed four bones on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of mainland England. The bones are from the neck, back and tail of the young dinosaur, called Vectaerovenator inopinatus.
Vectaerovenator inopinatus, which is believed to have grown to about 13 meters tall, roamed the Earth during the Cretan period, about 115 million years ago. Scientists believe it is a theropod, a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that usually walked on two legs rather than four.
The dinosaur was named for the large air spaces in some of its bones – a feature that helped scientists connect that meropod, researchers said. The “airbags,” which are also found in modern-day birds, were animal lung extensions that likely aided breathing while making the skeleton lighter.
“We were struck by how wild this animal was – it is full of airspace,” lead author Chris Barker, a doctoral student at the university, said in a press release. “Parts of his skeleton had to be quite delicate.”
The researchers said all the fossils found were likely to be from the same individual animal, belonging to a previously unknown genus of dinosaur. They called the discovery a “rare find.”
“The record of theropod dinosaurs from the ‘mid’ Cretaceous period in Europe is not so great, so it ‘s really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species by this time,” Barker said.
The university said the bones were discovered in 2019 by individuals and families, all of whom donated their findings to the nearby dinosaur museum.
“The joy of finding the bones we discovered was absolutely fantastic,” Robin Ward, an amateur fossil hunter who found one of the fossils, told the university. “I thought they were special and so we got them when we visited the Isle Dinosaur Museum. They immediately knew these were something rare and asked if we could donate them to the museum to be fully explored.”
“It was different from the marine reptile beads I have encountered in the past,” James Lockyer told the university, who found another of the fossils. “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 places that others do not, and in this case, it paid off.”
The new fossils will be on display at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown on the Isle of White, which is well known as one of the best places in Europe to find dinosaur remains. The researchers’ findings will be published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.