A giant stork-like dinosaur, a spinosaurus that lived in North Africa 100 million years ago, fed by catching fish from the shore, a study shows
- The spinosaurus is one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs, reaching up to 49 feet
- Previous theories suggested that they actively hunted prey by swimming in the sea
- British and American researchers now believe it was more like a heron or a stork
- He would stay mostly on shore, eating fish and small prey
A giant carnivorous dinosaur Spinosaurus pulled a fish off the coast while hunting small prey on land, according to a new study of its behavior.
Previous theories suggested that the 49-foot beast, which lived 100 million years ago, was a “largely aquatic predator” that used its long tail to swim and chase fish in the water.
A new study by Queen Mary University of London – based on an analysis of other dinosaurs and lizards that lived on land or sea – found little evidence to support the idea of the massive dinosaur as an aquatic predator.
They found that it was not well adapted to aquatic life and was more like a “giant heron or stork” lurking the shoreline for fish and small land prey.
Life reconstruction of a spinosaurus wandering in the water and fishing. Giant carnivorous dinosaur Spinosaurus pulls fish out of shore while hunting small prey on land, according to a new study of its behavior
Saddle storks in Africa feed on their beaks partly underwater – the Spinosaurus may have done something similar while feasting on shore for animals and fish
First discovered by paleontologists in 1915, the ecology and biology of the massive carnivorous beast has puzzled researchers for decades.
Dr. David Hawn, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary and lead author of the project, said their analysis of other creatures – living and extinct – revealed evidence of heron-like behavior, but none supported it as an aquatic predator.
“Some studies suggest that it actively chases fish into the water,” Hawn said, “but although they can swim, they would not be fast or efficient enough to do so effectively,” he added.
“Our findings show that the idea of a sting is much better supported, even if it’s a little less exciting,” Hawn explained.
Researchers are studying the probable position of the head of a spinosaurus in the water, determining that it is not suitable for detecting water pursuit of fish
Co-author Tom Holtz, chief professor of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Maryland, added that the creature was “a bizarre animal even by dinosaur standards.”
He said the Spinosaurus was “unlike anything alive today”, adding that “trying to understand its ecology will always be difficult”.
“We tried to use the evidence we have to best approximate his way of life. And what we found did not match the attributes we would expect in an aquatic predator to chase in the form of an otter, a sea lion, or a short plesiosaur cleavage.
One of the key pieces of evidence found by researchers has to do with the dinosaur’s ability to swim.
The spinosaurus has already been shown to be a less efficient swimmer than the crocodile, but it also has fewer tail muscles than the crocodile, and because of its size it would have much more resistance in the water.
Dr Hawn said: “Crocodiles are excellent in water compared to terrestrial animals, but they are not as specialized in aquatic organisms and are not able to actively chase fish.
“If the Spinosaurus had fewer tail muscles, less efficiency and more traction, then it’s hard to see how these dinosaurs could chase fish in a way that crocodiles can’t,” he added.
Dr. Holtz said, however, the evidence suggests that the creature feeds partially or even mostly in water – more than any other large dinosaur.
The researchers found that the Spinosaurus (fossil in the photo on the left) is more like a stork or heron (top right) in the way it feeds than a crocodile (bottom right).
Reconstructed skeleton of a medium-sized spinosaurus, showing its famous canvas opening in the back and tail
“But that’s a different statement than being a fast swimmer chasing water prey,” he added.
Although Dr. Hawn concludes: “Although our study provides us with a clearer picture of the ecology and behavior of the spinosaurus, there are still many unresolved issues and details that need to be explored for future study.
“We need to keep reviewing our ideas as we gather additional evidence and data about these unique dinosaurs. This will not be the last word on the biology of these amazing animals.
The findings were published in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica.
SPINOSAUR: ONE OF THE LARGEST CARNIVARIAN DINOSAURS
Originally discovered in Egypt, the spinosaurus is considered one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs in existence – probably reaching a length of over 49 feet.
The spinosaurus (right) faces T-rex in the movie Jurassic Park III. The 50-foot seven-ton spinosaurus was the largest known carnivorous dinosaur and lived in North Africa 100 million years ago.
Thoughts about his eating behavior vary, with some studies suggesting that he was an active aquatic predator chasing fish at sea.
Other studies claim that it was similar to a heron’s coastline – catching fish and small prey without daring to go to sea to actively chase fish.
He lived in the Late Cretaceous – 99 to 93.5 million years ago and lived in present-day North Africa.
There are two known species of spinosaurus that have been named so far:
- Spinosaurus aegyptiacus or Egyptian lizard on the spine
- The controversial Moroccan spinosaurus or Moroccan lizard on the spine
Spinosaurus’ first known fossils were destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, which hindered the paleontologist’s attempts to understand the unusual creatures.
Most recently, the dinosaur found fame in the 2001 film Jurassic Park III, where Tyrannosaurus Rex fights and defeats.