New study sheds light on the behavior of the giant carnivorous dinosaur Spinosaurus

New research from Queen Mary University of London and the University of Maryland has reignited the controversy over the behavior of the giant dinosaur Spinosaurus.

Since its discovery in 1915, the biology and behavior of the formidable Spinosaurus have puzzled paleontologists around the world. Recently it was said that the dinosaur was largely an aquatic predator, using its large tail to swim and actively pursue fish in the water.

The new study, published today in Palaeontologia Electronica, challenges this recent view of a spinosaurus that while it likely fed on water and may have swum, it has not adapted well to the life of a water-hunting predator. Instead, it was like a giant heron or stork (if it didn’t fly) – snatching fish off the shore while also taking any other small prey available on land or in the water.

Researchers compared Spinosaurus’ features with the skulls and skeletons of other dinosaurs and many living and extinct reptiles that lived on land or in water, or did both. They found that while there were many pieces of evidence that conflicted with the concept of a water-stalking predator, none of them clashed with the wading heron-like model, and different lines of evidence supported it.

Dr David Hoon, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary and lead author of the project, said: “The biology and ecology of a spinosaurus has been bothering paleontologists for decades. Some recent studies have suggested that they were actively hunting fish in the water, but while they could swim, they were not fast or efficient enough to do “So effectively, our findings indicate that the idea of ​​wading into the water has much better support, even if it is a little less exciting.”

Co-author Tom Holtz, lead lecturer in vertebrate palaeontology at the University of Maryland, said: “The spinosaurus was a strange animal even by the standards of dinosaurs, and unlike anything alive today, so trying to understand its environment will always be difficult. We sought to use the evidence we have to closely approximate our way of life. The best. And what we found does not match the features one would expect in a predatory water hunt such as otters, sea lions, or short-necked plesiosaurs. “

One of the main clues that researchers discovered relates to the ability of dinosaurs to swim. It has already been shown that a spinosaurus is a less efficient swimmer than an alligator, but it also has fewer tail muscles than an alligator, and because of its size it will have more clouds in the water.

Dr Hun said, “Crocodiles are excellent in water compared to land animals, but they are not specialized in aquatic life and are not able to actively hunt fish. If a spinosaurus has less muscles on the tail, less efficiency and greater drag, it is difficult to see how these dinosaurs can hunt.” Fish in a way that crocodiles cannot. “

Dr. Holtz added, “We definitely add that the evidence indicates that spinosaurus is partial, even predominantly, feeding in water, and possibly more than any other large dinosaur. But this is a different claim than being a fast swimmer stalking aquatic prey.” Despite Dr. Hoon’s conclusion: “While our study provides us with a clearer picture of the environment and behavior of a spinosaurus, there are still many outstanding questions and details that must be examined for future study and we must continue to review our ideas as we gather more evidence and data on these unique dinosaurs. This would be the last word in the biology of these amazing animals. “

Spinosaurus was originally found in Egypt and is believed to be one of the largest possibly existing carnivorous dinosaurs reaching over 15 meters in length. The first known spinosaurus fossils were destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, impeding paleontologists’ attempts to understand these unusual creatures. More recently, the dinosaur found fame in the 2001 movie Jurassic Park III, as it fights and defeats Tyrannosaurus rex.


Notes to Editors

  • Research publication: “Assessing the Spinosaurus Ecology: A beach specialist or a water chaser?” David Wei Hoon and Thomas R. Holtz Jr. Paleontology Electronica.
  • Once posted online, the manuscript will be available at the following URL: https: //Old electronics.Deer /Content /2021 /3219-the-ecology of-spinosaurus.
  • Photos available via Dropbox: https: //www.Drop box.Com /U /n3sul7gjv3b6bky /AACUXdVP1hVKpHnlxuK2-qV8a? Dl =0. Image information and copyright details can also be found below.

Picture 1 – Reconstructed skeleton of a medium-sized spinosaurus showing the back of the sail and the famous tail post. The tape measure is 1 meter. Image by Genya Masukawa who maintains the copyright but this is free to use with this story.

Image 2- Reconstructing the life of a spinosaurus wading in the water and fishing. Photo of Robert Nichols who maintains the copyright but this is free to use with this story.

Photo 3 – Saddle-billed storks in Africa search for their beaks partially underwater – Spinosaurus may have done something similar. Photography by David Hone who retains the copyright but that’s free to use for this story.

* For more information, please contact:

Sophie McLachlan

Faculty Communications Manager (Science and Engineering)

Queen Mary University of London

[email protected]

Phone: 020 7882 3787

About Queen Mary

Queen Mary University of London is a research-intensive university connecting minds around the world. As a member of the prestigious Russell Group, we work in the fields of humanities and social sciences, medicine and dentistry, and science and engineering, with an inspiring teaching informed directly by our world-leading research. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework, we were ranked 5th in the country for the proportion of research outputs that were world leading or internationally excellent. We have more than 25,000 students and offer more than 240 degree programs. Our reputation for excellent teaching won a silver medal in the latest Framework for Teaching Excellence. Queen Mary has a proud and distinguished history built on four historic institutions dating from 1785 onwards. The vision shared by each of these institutions – London Hospital Medical School, St. Bartholomew’s College of Medicine, Westfield College and Queen Mary College – was to provide hope and opportunities for the less privileged or underrepresented. Today, Queen Mary University of London remains true to this belief by opening doors of opportunity to anyone with the potential to succeed and help build a future we can all be proud of.

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