Newly discovered dinosaur was a relative of T. rex
Defined by their hollow bones and three-toed feet, the theropods were a group of dinosaurs that counted Tyrannosaurus rex among their ranks. A new member has now been added to the family, thanks to fossils recently discovered on Britain's Isle of Wight.
Given the latin name Vectaerovenator inopinatus, the reptile lived during the Cretaceous period, approximately 115 million years ago. Its identity is based on just four fossilized vertebrae that were discovered along the shore of the island's Shanklin region. All four are thought to be from the same individual 4 meter-long (13-ft) animal, and were found on three separate occasions last year by members of the public.
After being handed over to the local Dinosaur Isle Museum, the fossils were analyzed by paleontologists from the University of Southampton.
The scientists noticed large air sacs in some of the bones, which is typical of theropods. These sacs were extensions of the lungs, and it is thought they may have helped make the respiratory system more efficient, while simultaneously lightening the skeleton. The vertebrae had enough unique features, however, that it was decided they came from a previously unknown species.
"The record of theropod dinosaurs from the 'mid' Cretaceous period in Europe isn't that great, so it's been really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species from this time," says PhD student Chris Barker, who led the study. "You don't usually find dinosaurs in the deposits at Shanklin as they were laid down in a marine habitat. You're much more likely to find fossil oysters or drift wood, so this is a rare find indeed."
Visitors can now see the fossils for themselves, in a display at the museum.