Move aside T-Rex, there’s a new king of dinosaurs. I wonder if Hammond had one of these suckers hiding on Isla Nublar.

Meet the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. One part massive dinosaur, one part crocodile and one part duck. Add those up, and you start to get an idea of what the Spinosaurus looked like and how it lived.

The Spinosaurus grew to more than 50 feet in length and was the only dinosaur known to live much of its life in the water.

Today’s discovery isn’t a new one. The dinosaur was already known to scientists for many decades, but most of the bones found were destroyed in Germany during World War II. It wasn’t until a new discovery was made in Morocco that scientists began to understand just how aquatic the Spinosaurus was.

In a study published yesterday in the journal Science, scientists believe the massive dinosaur cruised through water with feet that were probably webbed. It had a long neck, powerful jaws and strong forearms. Its bone density was compared to that of a penguin.

Paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, also lead author, described what it was like to work on the Spinosaurus. “Working on this animal was like studying an alien from outer space; it’s unlike any other dinosaur I have ever seen.”

A press release talks about several aquatic adaptations of the Spinosaurus. I’ll touch on a few below.

The giant beast had neurovascular openings at the end of the snout, similar to those found on crocodiles and alligators. These openings monitor pressure and help modern-day crocodiles and alligators sense movement in the water. Scientists believe they served a similar function for the Spinosaurus.

Other findings show the Spinosaurus primarily lived in the water. Its long neck shifted its center of mass towards the front, making land travel incredibly difficult. A small pelvis and short hind legs along with powerful thighs are similar features to those found in early whales.

The Spinosaurus also sported massive dorsal spines that created a sort of ‘sail’ along the dinosaur’s back. Scientists believe the sail was meant more for display than anything.

Paul Sereno, another paleontologist attached to the study, touched on the surprising findings on the Spinosaurus. “What surprised us even more than the dinosaur’s size were its unusual proportions. We see limb proportions like this in early whales, not predatory dinosaurs.”

Cristiano Dal Sasso added, “In the last two decades, several finds demonstrated that certain dinosaurs gave origins to birds. Spinosaurus represents and equally bizarre evolutionary process, revealing that predatory dinosaurs adapted to a semi aquatic life and invaded river systems in Cretaceous North Africa.”

You can read more about Spinosaurus aegyptiacus here. Plus, it will be the cover story in the October National Geographic magazine. Here’s a video of Paul Sereno describing the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.

Image credit: Mike Hettwer

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