#1
Spinosaurus towers over T-rex

Paul Owen
Wednesday February 8, 2006


Fearsome: At 55 feet (17 metres) long, the Spinosaurus was larger even than T-Rex.


A gigantic dinosaur has put the tyrannosaurus rex firmly in the shade.

The spinosaurus - now officially the biggest predatory dinosaur known to man - measured 17 metres (55ft) from nose to tail, had long, crocodile-like jaws, and is thought to have had a sail on its back.

Although the spinosaurus was discovered in 1912, an examination of newly obtained fossils has now confirmed its true size.

Until 10 years ago, scientists thought that the tyrannosaurus was the largest predatory dinosaur. The largest fossil specimen, Sue, measures 13 metres (42ft) long and is thought to have weighed 6.4 tonnes when it lived, 67 million years ago.

Then scientists discovered the gigantosaurus, a meat-eater which lived 100 million years ago in what is now Argentina and stretched to 14 metres (45ft). But the spinosaurus dwarfs them both.

The spinosaurus - a theropod which stood on two legs like tyrannosaurus and gigantosaurus - was first identified by the German palaeontologist Ernst Stromer, who found the first specimen in Egypt in 1912.

Stromer published a detailed study of the bones, including a partial backbone with long spines which may have supported a sail. He believed that his predator was bigger than tyrannosaurus rex, but the fossils were obliterated when allied bombers struck a Munich museum in 1944.

Since then, only a few specimens of related dinosaurs and some isolated spinosaurus bones have been unearthed.

Now a new examination of two skull fragments have confirmed Stromer's suspicions. Cristiano Dal Sasso of the Civil Natural History Museum in Milan, Italy, analysed a snout acquired from a private collector, and previously unidentified bones from the upper rear of the skull.

New Scientist magazine reported: "After measuring their sizes, he estimates that the 99cm-long (3.25ft) snout came from a skull 1.75 metres (5.75ft) long. From what we know of the body shapes of other spinosaurs, Mr Dal Sasso calculates that the new spinosaurus was 17 metres long and weighed seven to nine tonnes."

One of the most interesting features of the spinosaurus was the sail on its back believed to have been used to attract a mate, in the same way as a peacock's tail, or to intimidate enemies or possibly to keep the animal cool.

Spinosaurs, with their long and slender snouts, were like theropod dinosaurs with crocodile mouths. Their long teeth interlocked to catch prey, and there is evidence that they fed largely on fish.

guardian.co.uk