Science

Spinosaurs were river monsters


Spinosaurs were theropod dinosaurs that competed with and could even exceed in size the larger T. rex. Their remains have been found in a large part of North Africa since the first specimen was unearthed in 1912 in Egypt. They are mainly known from fossils of skulls and teeth because no whole animal has ever been discovered.

Clues that plead for an appetite for water

Spinosaurs have several characteristics that suggest that they lived largely in water. Isotope analysis teeth from several specimens had already revealed a great similarity between spinosaurs and current aquatic animals. And the anatomical analysis of the snout of another specimen also provided clues of adaptation to water. The recent discovery of a paddle-shaped tail in the beds of Kem Kem, Morocco, confirmed this hypothesis. Which is found today still reinforced by the collection of hundreds of teeth, in the old river system of this same region, by a team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth. Spinosaur teeth are easily recognized because they have a round, smooth cross section that glows when exposed to the Sun.

Read alsoNew clues point to an aquatic past for spinosaurs

In their excavation campaign, paleontologists collected nearly 1,200 teeth which they examined under a magnifying glass (and under a microscope) and 45% of their loot consisted of spinosaur teeth. It is the largest concentration of dinosaur teeth ever discovered, and the fact that it came from the bed of an ancient river confirms that the spinosaurs must have spent a large part of their lives there. “They didn’t just come and drink there, they lived there and they died there too. They were real river monsters”, Emphasize the researchers in an article published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

The most dangerous place in the world

The Kem Kem Beds are a geological formation located next to a small village called Beggaa, which contains a layer of sand very rich in fossils of all kinds. The inhabitants of Beggaa go up there daily to dig there and they regularly unearth many petrified bones. All these fossils are sold through several networks, as well as at the village market where they are bought by tourists. Aware of this trade, paleontologists also participate in it by ensuring that the villagers are properly paid for their labor. They can thus recover precious pieces that would otherwise be scattered around the world, from private collectors.

100 million years ago, this part of what is now the Sahara Desert was home to a fluvial ecosystem populated by many animals: hundreds of species of fish, turtles, crocodilians and dozens of dinosaurs. The vast majority of these animals were predators that munched on each other and also ate the abundant populations of fish. The bestiary is scary, so much so that paleontologists qualify the place as “most dangerous in the history of the EarthAmong the identified dinosaurs were indeed present three of the largest known predators: spinosaurs therefore but also abelisauridae and Carcharodontosaurs. In the air reigned immense pterosaurs, these flying reptiles, of which at least three species have recently come to light. And even the fish that were the prey of all this monstrous inventory were not left out. They also reached gigantic proportions represented by giant coelacanths or freshwater sawfish called Onchopristis which possessed a huge rostrum, sharp as a blade.

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