Paleontologists continue to piece together the mystery of the Spinosaurus, the biggest predator to ever walk the planet. The dinosaur roamed Morocco’s southeastern Kem Kem region 95 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.
Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in England who are investigating the Spinosaurus published their latest findings in the Cretaceous Research journal last week.
The researchers discovered 1,200 dinosaur teeth in a prehistoric river, of which 45% belonged to the Spinosaurus. The findings prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the dinosaur was an “enormous river-monster,” the paleontologists argue.
“We know of no other location where such a mass of dinosaur teeth has been found in bone-bearing rock,” said David Martill, professor of palaeobiology at the university, according to BBC.
“The enhanced abundance of Spinosaurus teeth, relative to other dinosaurs, is a reflection of their aquatic lifestyle,” Martill explained.
“An animal living much of its life in water is much more likely to contribute teeth to the river deposit than those dinosaurs that perhaps only visited the river for drinking and feeding along its banks.”
The teeth findings support the team’s hypothesis that the Spinosaurus, while a terrestrial dinosaur, spent much of its life in the water, sustaining itself with aquatic rather than terrestrial prey.
Until the discovery of the Spinosaurus, no researcher in the history of paleontology has ever found evidence of a terrestrial dinosaur spending most of its life in water.
The mystery of the Spinosaurus
During the Cretaceous Period, Morocco’s southeastern Kem Kem region was the most dangerous place on earth.
The Kem Kem beds were home to giant meat-eaters such as the 12-meter-long (40 feet) Bahariasaurus, the 12-meter (40 feet) Carcharodontosaurus — similar to a T. rex — and the 15-meter-long (49 feet), six-tonne Spinosaurus.
Paleontological studies have yielded little evidence of herbivores in the region, perplexing researchers. How could such massive predators survive in competition with each other and with minimal prey?
Moroccan-German paleontologist and researcher Nizar Ibrahim has dedicated years of his life to the mystery of the Spinosaurus. He hypothesized that the giant dinosaur lived in rivers rather than on land, doing most of its hunting underwater.
In April, the Portsmouth team published its findings on the Spinosaurus’ series of tall neural spines. They determined that the dinosaur had a flexible tail that enabled it to move swiftly underwater, unlike any other dinosaur. Laboratory experiments show the Spinosaurus tail could move laterally to create thrust, propelling it through the water like a crocodile.
The findings suggested the Spinosaurus terrorized both rivers and riverbanks as a semi-aquatic dinosaur, eating huge fish and even sharks. The Spinosaurus was still able to move on land, perhaps walking on four legs rather than two, and lay eggs there.
The latest discovery of Spinosaurus teeth in a prehistoric river validates the team’s hypothesis that the Spinosaurus was the first and perhaps only aquatic dinosaur.