Team presents groundbreaking evidence Spinosaurus dinosaur was aquatic

The Spinosaurus is thought to have been a 50-foot predatory, water-loving beast.

April 29, 2020, 12:04 PM

Findings about a newly researched massive fossil support evidence that the giant creature was, in fact, aquatic, a conclusion that has the potential to change our understanding of dinosaur life.

Before this finding, which was published in the journal Nature, with exclusive visuals published on National Geographic online, there was little conclusive evidence that a dinosaur lived in a mostly aquatic habitat.

Back in 2014, National Geographic Explorer and University of Detroit Mercy paleontologist Dr. Nizar Ibrahim led a team of scientists in the Kem Kem region of the Moroccan Sahara to research fossil remains of the Spinosaurus.

Their research then found the giant creature was 50 feet long when fully grown, which is longer than an adult Tyrannosaurus rex, and, more interestingly, that the Spinosaurus was possibly a predatory water-loving dinosaur.

PHOTO: Guzun Ion molding the tail of the flesh model of Spinosaurus.
Guzun Ion molding the tail of the flesh model of Spinosaurus.
Paolo Verzone/National Geographic

Even after the reconstruction of the Spinosaurus' skeleton, however, many questions remained about the enormous dinosaur and how it lived.

In the five years after that, Ibrahim's team recovered more of the skeleton's fossils, including "a remarkably complete, fin-like tail capable of extensive lateral movement and characterized by extremely long spines," according to a National Geographic press release.

In 2018, with the support of National Geographic Society, Ibrahim and his team returned to the Morocco dig site, and their findings after years of research were announced Wednesday.

PHOTO: Team work to finalize a scientific publication, from the left: Simone Maganuco, Nizar Ibrahim, and Cristiano Dal Sasso.
Team work to finalize a scientific publication, from the left: Simone Maganuco, independent researcher and Paleontologist; Nizar Ibrahim, PhD, Paleontologist, National Geographic Explorer, Assistant Prof of Biology at the University of Detroit Mercy; Cristiano Dal Sasso (Milan museum of natural history), Italian Paleontologist.
Paolo Verzone/National Geographic

The final report provides evidence that the Spinosaurus was aquatic and used "tail-propelled aquatic locomotion" to hunt in a river system that once spanned the region.

This is the first time such an adaptation has been reported in a dinosaur, according to National Geographic.

"It is confirmed that this new discovery changes our current understanding of dinosaur diversity in general and the Spinosaurus specifically," National Geographic said.

Many people first came to learn about the Spinosaurus when it was featured in the 2001 movie "Jurassic Park III," but researchers say the Spinosaurus is actually thought to have lived in what is now North Africa during the Cretaceous period about 112 to 93.5 million years ago.

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