Huge cache of teeth seal Spinosaurus as a swimming dinosaur
Earlier this year, paleontologists proved Jurassic Park wrong yet again by discovering that the superpredator Spinosaurus was the first water-dwelling dinosaur. Now some of the same team has found further evidence, with a huge deposit of teeth recovered from an ancient riverbed, far outnumbering land dinosaurs.
Spinosaurus is an absolute beast of a predator, estimated to have been up to 18 m (59 ft) long and weighing over 20 tons. Dwarfing even the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex, it had a long, pointed snout full of dagger-sharp teeth and a characteristic sail on its back.
But back in April this year, a new discovery indicated that it wasn’t the land-shaking, plane-trashing monster it’s made out to be in movies like Jurassic Park 3. Fossil remains of its tail were found for the first time, revealing a paddle shape perfect for propelling the dinosaur through the water after prey.
This aquatic lifestyle was already long speculated from other anatomical features. The shape of its snout and teeth were very crocodilian and ideal for catching fish, and its center of gravity was too far forwards to support its weight if it walked bipedally on land.
And now, some of the same researchers from that previous study have found even more evidence that all but closes the case. Excavations of the Kem Kem riverbed in the Moroccan Sahara Desert uncovered more than 1,200 teeth, most of which belonged to Spinosaurus.
In total, Spino teeth accounted for 48 percent of the dental remains found, with the second most belonging to an extinct species of giant sawfish. Importantly, land-dwelling dinosaurs only account for less than one percent of the remains at one site and 5.6 percent at another.
"The enhanced abundance of Spinosaurus teeth, relative to other dinosaurs, is a reflection of their aquatic lifestyle,” says David Martill, an author of the study. “An animal living much of its life in water is much more likely to contribute teeth to the river deposit than those dinosaurs that perhaps only visited the river for drinking and feeding along its banks. From this research we are able to confirm this location as the place where this gigantic dinosaur not only lived but also died. The results are fully consistent with the idea of a truly water-dwelling, ‘river monster’."
With all this new information, we’d expect to see some updated museum exhibits and Jurassic Park movies in the future.
The research was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Source: University of Portsmouth