The dinosaur Spinosaurus aegyptiacus enjoyed surf with its turf since a new study has found this dino was a skillful swimmer that ate sharks and other marine life, sported an eye-catching sail, and was the biggest carnivorous dinosaur ever known.
The 44,000-pound 50-foot-long beast, described in the latest issue of the journal Science, measured more than 9 feet longer than the world's largest documented T. rex specimen.
Spinosaurus' size and big teeth alone would have drawn attention to the dinosaur during its lifetime 95 million years ago. The Cretaceous dino's large, and possibly multicolored, sail added yet another dramatic feature to its presence.
"The sail must have played an important function--after all, this is a very, very big thing to carry around on your back!" lead author Nizar Ibrahim told Discovery News. "We think that the sail served as a display structure, as it would stick out of the water even when the dinosaur was swimming at the surface, with most of its body submerged."
"The sail would tell other dinosaurs, and especially other Spinosaurus, a lot about the size of the animal, and may have conveyed other information, such as gender, but we don't know that for sure," continued Ibrahim, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago. "Dinosaurs had pretty good eyesight, so it is quite likely that many were brightly colored. The sail of Spinosaurus is a great 'canvas,' so I would expect it to be multicolored."
The huge dinosaur was first discovered in the Egyptian Sahara more than a century ago by German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach. The remains were brought to Munich's state paleontology museum, but were later destroyed during the April 1944 allied forces bombing of parts of Munich.
Ibrahim managed to track down Stromer's surviving notes, sketches and photos at the Stromer family castle in Bavaria. With an international team of researchers that included paleontologist Paul Sereno, he found additional fossils for Spinosaurus in the Moroccan Sahara along desert cliffs known as the Kem Kem beds. During the dinosaur's lifetime, this region was once a large river system, stretching from present-day Morocco to Egypt.
CT scanning and digital modeling determined that Spinosaurus was built for both land and marine life. Adaptations for swimming included dense bones similar to those of penguins and sea cows, feet with flat and broad claws that might have been used like paddles, a flexible tail that likely helped with propulsion in water, and much more.