A dinosaur with a fin-like tail has been found in Morocco, which must have felt like a fish in water.
Until now it was always assumed that dinosaurs lived exclusively on land. But a new study harshly brushes this theory off the table. The team comes up with undeniable evidence that the predatory Spinosaurus aegyptiacus spent his life in the water. He had a fin-like tail with which he could hunt prey underwater. It is the first time that researchers have found such a special adaptation in a dinosaur.
The research team relies on an in-depth analysis of the world’s only existing skeleton of one Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, which has been found in parts over the years. The skeleton is not only special because of its unique character, but also because it is the most complete skeleton of a predatory Cretaceous dinosaur from the Cretaceous Africa. The skeleton was found in the so-called Kem Kem Group, a region in the Moroccan Sahara. Although this desert today represents a dry and arid environment, it used to harbor an enormous river system in days gone by.
It is not the first time that researchers have examined the fossil remains Spinosaurus aegyptiacus have bent. The first fossil remains of the animal were discovered in 2008, after which several studies were started. In these studies, scientists concluded that the beast must have been a fish-eating dinosaur, displaying traits of an amphibious lifestyle. This is evident, for example, from its relatively short hind legs, wide feet and elongated jaws with conical teeth. At the time, it was already carefully suggested that the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus may have been a real aquatic dinosaur. However, this theory received a lot of criticism, mainly because the skeleton did not have pronounced bone structures that the dino must have needed to move through the water.
Between 2015 and 2019, researchers decided to return to the site of the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. Here they found to their delight even more parts of the skeleton. But the most surprising find was a complete fin-like tail. To properly assess this tail, the team decided to digitally capture the anatomy of the tail. They then compared the swimming performance of the Spinosaurus-tail with the tails of other animals, including other dinosaurs, crocodile salamanders.
The researchers came to a striking conclusion based on this analysis. The results indicate that the tail belongs to a real swimming “river monster” that dwelt in the water and could use its tail to move through the water. It means that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus his tail moved back and forth to propel himself through the water. “This discovery eradicates the idea that water dinosaurs never existed,” said researcher Nizar Ibrahim. “Spinosaurus aegyptiacus actively hunted prey in the water. And not only in shallow water where he patiently waited for fish to swim by; probably this dino spent most of its life in the water. ”
The special discovery may indicate that several family members of the Spinosaurus lived in the water. And that would mean that a wide variety of dinosaurs made the Moroccan rivers unsafe. “This discovery opens our eyes to a whole new world of possibilities for dinosaurs,” says Ibrahim. “It not only adds something to the existing story, but also starts a new story. Plus, it drastically changes our understanding of dinosaurs and what we thought we knew about them. In the more than 220 million years of dinosaur evolution, we have never encountered an animal like this. And that is quite remarkable. ”
The findings from the study prove once again that the rivers in the Kem Kem Group were filled with predatory and scary sea creatures that you would rather not have encountered. Earlier, researchers also said that there were terrifying fish and sharks in the rivers that wouldn’t be out of place in horror books. The Sahara from 100 million years ago has therefore been identified by scientists as the most dangerous place in Earth’s history. And you can probably imagine that now.
POPULAR ON SCIENTIAS.NL
Keep wondering ✨
Receive the most beautiful space photos and interesting popular science articles every Friday. Join 50,000 others to receive the free Scientias Magazine.