The largest known predatory dinosaur to roam the Earth was nine feet longer than the world’s biggest T. Rex specimen.
Scientists report that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus also appears to have been the first truly semiaquatic dinosaur.
New fossils of the massive Cretaceous-era predator reveal it adapted to life in the water some 95 million years ago, providing the most compelling evidence to date of a dinosaur able to live and hunt in an aquatic environment.
It was Professor Phil Manning who discovered the first known Tyrannosaur footprint in the Hell Creek formation in Montana.
He’d seen it on the last day of an expedition in 2006 but did not have the time to investigate further, so he returned the following year and began to search for it all over again.
It is rather unremarkable to look at and unless you knew what you were looking at you wouldn’t notice it.
Rather thinner than one would expect a foot to be, the toes only just joined to the main foot and it is raised in profile rather than indented.
And it is much darker than the rock around it.
It measures around 29 inches long and similarly wide and was formed when a T-Rex walked in the clay of a flood plain, compressing it enough that it became tougher than the rock surrounding it and so it survived, just, when the rock around it eroded.
As well as the footprint itself being the right size and shape for a T-Rex, the other compelling evidence that this is genuinely from a T-Rex is that it was discovered right where it is known T-Rex died, and therefore lived.
One that was claimed to have been found in Mexico was disputed and dismissed as there was no sign anywhere near it that T-Rex was ever there.
Now one has been found, others will come to light but considering the timescale it is astounding that even one survives.
A hadrosaur Skeleton, Field Museum (Credit: Lisa Andres)
by Paul Rodgers.
Dinosaurs would be walking the Earth today if it weren’t for a “colossal” piece of bad luck.
Had the asteroid that brought their reign to an end struck at “a more convenient time” they could well have survived the cataclysm, according to new research.
And that in turn would mean no humans.
“If dinosaurs didn’t go extinct, then mammals would have never had their opportunity to blossom.
So if it wasn’t for that asteroid, then humans probably wouldn’t be here. It’s as simple as that,” said Dr Stephen Brusatte, a palaeontologist at Edinburgh University’s school of geosciences.
“Not only did a giant asteroid strike, but it happened at the worst possible time, when their ecosystems were vulnerable,” said Dr Brusatte, a co-discoverer of the Pinnochio rex tyrannosaur (Qianzhousaurus sinensis) announced in May.
“It was a perfect storm of events, when dinosaurs were at their most vulnerable.”
A triceratops at the American Museum of Natural History (Credit: Wikipedia)
The arrival of the Chicxulub bolide (comet or giant meteorite) 66 million years ago, in what is now Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, left a crater 20km deep and 180km in diameter and caused a global catastrophe including firestorms, tsunamis, and earthquakes.
The 10km wide rock released enough dust, ash, and aerosols into the air to create a global “impact winter” that lasted for a decade.
The Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (formerly known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary) is thought to have killed three quarters of the earth’s species.
At particular risk were large creatures – the dinosaurs – that depended on equally large food intake.
Only those dinosaurs that could fly survived, eventually evolving into today’s birds.
An artist’s impression of the new short-armed and winged feathered dinosaur Zhenyuanlong suni found in China and from the early Cretaceous period (125m years ago). Photograph: Chuang Zhao
by Ian Sample
An ancient feathered creature dug up in northeastern China is the largest winged dinosaur ever found, researchers say.
The fossil of the prehistoric raptor is so well preserved that scientists have been able to reconstruct its impressive plumage, from the tiny feathers on its head and neck, to the larger quill pen-like feathers that sprout from its tail and substantial wings.
A cousin of the velociraptor made famous by the Jurassic Park movies, the carnivore two metres in length lived 125m years ago in the region where dense forests became home to some of the first flowering plants.
Named Zhenyuanlong suni, the new species shared the land with a huge variety of other creatures. Dinosaurs were abundant, among them Yutyrannus huali, the “feathered tyrant”.
On the ground beneath their feet lived salamanders, amphibians and plenty of mammals, including the badger-sized beast, repenomamus, which dined on dead dinosaurs.
The near complete skeleton of the feathered raptor was found in sedimentary rock that formed in ancient lake beds in China’s Liaoning Province.
The Yixian formation there has become a treasure trove of exquisitely-preserved dinosaurs, many of which sported feathers.
“It’s the biggest dinosaur that has ever been found with wings,” said Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at Edinburgh University. “In general it is very bird-like, but it’s big, and has these very short arms with full-blown wings.” Details of the discovery are published in the journal, Scientific Reports.
The specimen poses a conundrum for researchers, because despite its impressive wings, the animal was probably incapable of flight.
Brusatte said their function was a mystery, but they might have been used in colourful sexual displays, just as peacocks parade their tail feathers to court peafowls.
Another possibility is that the dinosaur used its wings to protect its eggs.
The stegosaurus is one of the more well-known dinosaurs out there, appearing in more forms of media than almost any of its lizardy brethren with the exception of the T-Rex and possible that dinosaur with wings on its legs.
Interestingly, it’s also one of the dumbest.
We say this not because we have anything against the stegosaurus, because that couldn’t be further from the truth, we love the stegosaurus because how could we not love a dinosaur with an in-built Mohawk?
No, the reason we’re saying that the stegosaurus is probably one of the dumbest dinosaurs to have existed is because it literally had one of the smallest brains we’re aware of.
As noted here, the stegosaurus had a brain no bigger than a lime, although this is bigger than people initially thought, since it used to be believed that the stegosaurus’ brain was no bigger than a walnut, it still means that the dinosaur had statistically, the smallest brain of any dinosaur we’re currently aware of.
We should make it clear that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a stegosaurus didn’t need to contemplate philosophy or do long division in its head because it’s life was, overall, pretty good.
However, in the early days of palaeontology, people examining the skulls of stegosaurus remains couldn’t accept that a creature of such immense size and girth could survive with such a tiny brain, so it was theorised that the creature must have had a second brain, in its arse.
The actual reasoning behind the theory isn’t as stupid as that, but it is is painfully close.
To explain, palaeontologists back in the day noticed that the stegosaurus had a weird cavity in the booty area of its spine.
This cavity was larger than the cranial cavity that housed the dinosaur’s brain so it was simply assumed that it must have contained a second brain of some sort.
That was literally it.
This theory persisted for decades because what else could that cavity be for? As it so happens, no one really knows what the cavity is for.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, the important thing to remember here is that at one point in time, it was literally believed that stegosaurus’ had a second brain in it’s arse.