The Fossils Of A Shark-Eating, 97-Million-Year-Old Underwater Dinosaur Have Been Found
In 2001, "Jurassic Park III" introduced us to Spinosaurus, a gigantic meat-eater that could take a Tyrannosaurus rex down with ease.
It wasn't until recently, however, when some fossils were dug up in the Moroccan Sahara that scientists determined that Spinosaurus was not only the largest carnivore to ever live, but also the first dinosaur to spend most of its life in the water.
According to The Guardian, Spinosaurus had small nostrils in the back of its skull allowing it to breathe while partially submerged. Large, long feet suggest it also had webbed toes.
Its teeth are not the razor sharp type seen in the T-rex but more conically-shaped, designed for stabbing soft, wriggly fish.
Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago said,
The animal we are resurrecting today is so bizarre, it is going to force dinosaur experts to rethink many things they thought they knew about dinosaurs. So far, Spinosaurus is the only dinosaur that shows these adaptations.
Spinosaurus' most distinguishing features are a dorsal sail and elongated snout, housing a jaw big enough to swallow sharks and crocodiles whole.
A fully-grown Spinosaurus weighed about 20 tons and measured approximately 50 feet in length, around 10 feet longer than a T-rex.
It lived some 97 million years ago among giant aquatic reptiles called Plesiosaurs.
But these creatures weren't dinosaurs, and since no other sea-dwelling dinosaurs have been discovered from this time, Spinosaurus is now thought to be the first dinosaur to have hunted and roamed the sea.
Further evidence of its aquatic lifestyle are the short, muscular hind legs resembling those of early limbed whales and chemicals in its teeth that most likely came from a marine diet.
It also may have walked on all fours, making it the only carnivorous dinosaur to do so.
Spinosaurus was first discovered in western Egypt in 1911, the Guardian reports, by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer.
But the bones Stromer found were destroyed when the British air force mistakenly bombed Munich's paleontology museum in 1944.
It was the remaining notes combined with the Morrocan fossils found by Ibrahim's team that provided the framework for these new conclusions about Spinosaurus.
Amazingly, Ibrahim only knew where to look because he was randomly approached by a man with a box while sitting in a cafe in eastern Morroco in 2008.
Inside that box were Spinosaurs' tail bones.
He set out to track the box carrier down but knew nothing about him.
I thought we were never going to find the guy. But at that very moment… a person walked past our table. I caught a glimpse of his face and immediately recognized it. It was the man we were looking for.
The man took Ibrahim to the location of the fossils where the rest of its remains, including its teeth, jaw and vertebrae, were discovered.
H/T: Washington Post, Photo Courtesy: Davide Bonadonna/University of Chicago