The earth at the Mesozoic era was inhabited by all sorts of giant dinosaurs, impressive prehistoric animals that reign supreme. We all know the largest herbivores, these giant sauropods, long-necked dinosaurs that fed on the leaves on top of trees such as the Brachiosaurus. But what about carnivores? Do we really know the biggest of them all? Many might try to say that it is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, by far the most famous of all carnivores, but is that the truth?
It may be easy to imagine that a theropod predator as massive and imposing as the Tyrannosaurus Rex was the largest of all carnivorous dinosaurs. In fact, the T-rex is one of the largest carnivores that ever existed, it could be up to 40 feet long and 20 feet high, so it was definitely better not to be in front of it. It was probably the largest predator at the time of its reign. But it was not the largest of all carnivorous dinosaurs, in fact, another dinosaur, although living in a different period, stole this title from it.
Even bigger than the T-Rex. The Spinosaurus, which lived in the Cretaceous Period was a strange mastodon weighing up to twenty tons, a sort of a cross between a duck and a giant alligator, is the first dinosaur to be discovered that shows anatomical features of adaptation to a semi-aquatic environment, according to fossils found in Morocco.
22 yards long and with about 20 sharp teeth in a long narrow snout, this dinosaur, already known to be carnivorous and living about 95 million years ago, also devoured fish.
Illustration of a spinosaurus and its skeleton.
The first bones of the spinosaurus had been discovered in 1912 in Egypt and described in 1915 by the German paleontologist Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach, but he had not then detected the animal's aquatic adaptation capacities. The spinosaurus greatly surpassed in size the famous tyrannosaurus (T-Rex), which lived in North America several million years after the disappearance of the spinosaurus, explain the scientists whose discovery is published in the American journal Science.
Size comparison between different theropods
According to this international team of scientists, the spinosaurus is the largest known predatory dinosaur that has ever lived on the planet, surpassing by three yards in length the largest specimen of T-Rex ever discovered.
The most complete skeletal fossil of a spinosaurus to date clearly shows that it could evolve both on land and in water, explain Paul Sereno and Nizar Ibrahim, paleontologists from the University of Chicago, the main co-authors of this discovery. The bones, including parts of the skull, spine, pelvis, and limbs, were found over several years in freshwater sediments in the Moroccan Sahara in the southeastern part of the country.
They clearly indicate that this animal lived partly in an aquatic environment, making it the first known dinosaur capable of swimming, these scientists point out. Marine reptiles such as plesiosaurs and mosasaurs are not dinosaurs, although they do bear a certain resemblance, they point out.
The biggest carnivorous dinosaur in history, Spinosaurus, could swallow sharks. Scientists are learning more and more about the animal described as a kind of giant crocodile, reports the New Scientist on Thursday 11 September. In particular, they have discovered that the mastodon spent most of its time in the ocean, where at 22 yards ( 15 meters ) long It devoured other species with relative ease.
Fossilized spinosaurus skull
"This is the first and only dinosaur we know of that has been able to adapt to a semi-aquatic lifestyle," says Nizar Ibrahim of the University of Chicago, quoted by New Scientist. "Spino had feet like oars" similar to those of water birds and very dense bones in his lower limbs, the scientist noted. Thus, the giant could remain horizontal in the water, while maneuvering his upper body in order to hunt his prey, such as large sharks, details the researcher. However, once on land, it could only move on all fours.
In the course of its evolution, "it abandoned terrestrial life to become an aquatic predator, which is very unexpected," notes Thomas Holtz of the University of Maryland, recalling that this discovery makes it possible to understand the way of life of a dinosaur, which was identified more than a century ago. Until then, "we thought that the Spinosaurus was a very angry 14-yards ( 13 meters ) heron," according to another academic quoted by New Scientist, Ken Lacovara. It was actually more of a crocodile-like species, we learn these new facts.
Among the aquatic adaptation traits observed in Spinosaurus bones, researchers note the presence of a nostril on the top of the head to prevent water from entering, relatively long front legs, and large flat webbed feet for swimming, but also for walking on muddy ground or mud. They also report high bone density in the limbs that would have allowed this dinosaur to stay submerged in water rather than float. This bone density is reminiscent of that of today's first whales or hippos, notes anatomist J.G.M. Thewissen of Northeast Ohio Medical University, quoted in the journal Science.
For paleontologist Paul Sereno, "the Spinosaurus, with its crocodile-like snout, long neck and elongated body, must have looked like a giant duck with an alligator tail. He also noted that this dinosaur must have had great difficulty on the ground to maintain its balance for a long time on its hind legs, given its anatomy. According to these researchers, the enormous ridge on its back, reminiscent of a boat sail, was mainly used to seduce it for reproduction rather than to help it swim.
Indeed everything proves that the spinosaurus was indeed the largest of all carnivorous dinosaurs. Nevertheless, scientists agree that it was not a terrestrial super predator like Tyrannosaurus or Carcharodontosaurids and that it probably did not attack large prey like its other meat-eating predators' fellows.
Studies show that the Spinosaurus' jaw was not nearly as powerful as that of a Tyrannosaurus and that it would have had trouble shredding large prey in a fight, as seen in the movie Jurassic Park 3 during its fight against a T-Rex.
The tyrannosaurus probably remains the most dangerous predator of all time, though not the largest...
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