Semiaquatic adaptations in a giant predatory dinosaur

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Science  26 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6204, pp. 1613-1616
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258750

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Mysterious dinosaur a swimmer?

Dinosaurs are often appreciated for their size and oddity. In this regard, the North African carnivorous theropod Spinosaurus, with its huge dorsal sail and a body larger than Tyrannosaurus rex, has long stood out. This species also stands out because of its history. The unfortunate loss of the type specimen during World War II left much of what we know about Spinosaurus to be divined through speculation and reconstruction. Ibrahim et al. now describe new fossils of this unusual species. They conclude it was, at least partly, aquatic, a first for dinosaurs.

Science, this issue p. 1613


We describe adaptations for a semiaquatic lifestyle in the dinosaur Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. These adaptations include retraction of the fleshy nostrils to a position near the mid-region of the skull and an elongate neck and trunk that shift the center of body mass anterior to the knee joint. Unlike terrestrial theropods, the pelvic girdle is downsized, the hindlimbs are short, and all of the limb bones are solid without an open medullary cavity, for buoyancy control in water. The short, robust femur with hypertrophied flexor attachment and the low, flat-bottomed pedal claws are consistent with aquatic foot-propelled locomotion. Surface striations and bone microstructure suggest that the dorsal “sail” may have been enveloped in skin that functioned primarily for display on land and in water.

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