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Temporal range: Cretaceous
Ernst Stromer, 1915
Spinosaurus (which means 'spiny lizard') was a huge semi-aquatic dinosaur from the Cretaceous, 112 to 97 million years ago. It had paddle-like feet and nostrils on top of its crocodile-like head. This would let it submerge as a crocodile does.
The same research suggests it was perhaps larger than Tyrannosaurus rex, but more clumsy on land, moving as a quadruped. All these ideas had been suggested before. The discovery of a more complete skeleton made palaeontologists think they were correct. The fossil was found in Morocco by a private collector who let scientists examine it.
Spinosaurus bones were first discovered in Egypt in 1912 by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer in 1915. Two species, S. aegyptiacus and S. marocannus, are recognized by many paleontologists, but there may only be one. Spinosaurus looked like Baryonyx except it was larger and more heavily built. Six specimens of Spinosaurus have been uncovered. Apparently, good material was destroyed in a WW2 bombing raid.
Spinosaurus wss larger than Tyrannosaurus. Estimates suggest that it was 12.6 to 18 metres (41 to 59 ft) in length and 7 to 20.9 tonnes (7.7 to 23.0 short tons) in weight. It had a two meter high sail on its back like Dimetrodon. Several uses have been suggested for this sail, such as to help control its body temperature, as a way to attract a mate, and to intimidate or frighten enemies. It lived in what is now Sahara Desert, but which then was mangrove forests alongside shoreline conditions, tidal flats and channels.
The skull of Spinosaurus was long and narrow like that of a modern gharial. Spinosaurus is known to have eaten fish. Evidence suggests that it lived both on land and in water like a modern crocodilian.
It was featured as the main dinosaur in the 2001 film Jurassic Park III. It has also apppeared on postage stamps in several countries, and many toy companies have made models of Spinosaurus.
- Morrelle, Rebecca 2014. Spinosaurus fossil: 'Giant swimming dinosaur' unearthed. BBC News Science & Environment. 
- Nizar, Ibrahim et al 2014. Semiaquatic adaptations in a giant predatory dinosaur. Science online 
- Balter, Michael 2014. Giant dinosaur was a terror of Cretaceous waterways. Science 345 (6202) p1232. 
- Chang, Kenneth 2014. A lost-and-found nomad helps solve the mystery of a swimming dinosaur. New York Times.