On an Isle of Wight beach, a chance discovery.
Fossil hunter Robin Ward has found something that he thinks looks pre-historic – he was right.
Paleontologists have confirmed August 12th two fossils, combined with another two found over a period of weeks in 2019, are from a newly discovered dinosaur species that lived about 115 million years ago.
“The Isle of Wight in particular is really a hotspot for dinosaur fossils in the UK overall,” explains University of Southampton PhD student Chris Barker, who led the study.
“And usually find bits and scrappy material on most occasions, but the fact that these were from a younger marine deposit is a significant because you generally never find dinosaur material in those sediments.”
All four fossils were donated to the island’s dinosaur museum, which then sought assistance in identifying them.
Scientific study confirmed they likely came from the same individual.
The Vectaerovenator inopinatus lived in the Cretaceous period and was a theropod dinosaur, the same group that includes the famed T-Rex, as well as modern-day birds.
“It is loosely related to Tyrannosaurus in that it’s a theropod, we know that it’s a theropod. Dinosaurs, carnivores, modern birds, for example, are theropods,” explains Barker.
“Obviously, we have very limited materials, so we can’t go into the details of its behavior, its anatomy, etc. And so, it was found from rocks which were about 115 million years ago, so early Cretaceous.”
Barker says the Isle of Wight is renowned as one of the top locations for dinosaur remains in Europe.
It’s likely Vectaerovenator lived in an area just north of where it’s remains were found.
“My initial reaction was, I was quite perplexed as to finding dinosaur bones from that marine deposit. I was initially quite confused. I usually find it in the older wilden, as it’s known,” says Barker.
“So, that really prompted my interest, really piqued my interest. And from there, we just started doing some preparative anatomy, doing some genetics, which is making some family trees, give or take. And yeah, we’re pretty happy that it looks like it’s a new animal.”
The paper was published today (12 August) in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.