A new study gives a clear glimpse into the life of the largest carnivorous dinosaur

Originally identified through fossil evidence from Egypt in 1915, the Spinosaur has become quite a star in the world of dinosaurs. A massive beast measuring up to 15 meters in length, it is considered to be the largest carnivorous dinosaur. This was artfully etched onto our collective imaginations in the 2001 film Jurassic Park III as it defeated and devoured Tyrannosaurus Rex in an iconic battle.

Despite this fame, little was known about the biology and ecology of this giant until very recently. Many intact fossils were destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, adding to the difficulty of studying what one of the authors called: “…a bizarre animal even by dinosaur standards, and unlike anything alive, today…” Based on available data it had been argued that this was an aquatic pursuit predator; using its massive tail to propel itself through the water to capture prey.

In a newly published study in Palentologia Electronica backed by research from the Queen Mary University of London, and the University of Maryland this behavior has been called into question. The new research uses differential comparisons of behavior and physiology among dinosaurs, ancient reptiles, modern-day reptiles, and available fossil evidence to build a credible picture of spinosaurus habitat and hunting habits.

The main basis for comparison in terms of aquatic suitability and physiology would be modern crocodiles. Concerning this, Dr. Hone, lead author of the study said: “Crocodiles are excellent in water compared to land animals, but are not that specialized for aquatic life and are not able to actively chase after fish. If Spinosaurus had fewer muscles on the tail, less efficiency, and more drag then it’s hard to see how these dinosaurs could be chasing fish in a way that crocodiles cannot.”

The detailed study looked at a large number of physiological and environmental attributes. Dr. Hone concludes: “Whilst our study provides us with a clearer picture of the ecology and behavior of Spinosaurus, there are still many outstanding questions and details to examine for future study and we must continue to review our ideas as we accumulate further evidence and data on these unique dinosaurs. This won’t be the last word on the biology of these amazing animals.”

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