A new species of dinosaur has been discovered on the Isle of Wight.
Paleontologists at the University of Southampton believe that four bones found in Shanklin last year belong to a new species of theropod dinosaur.
It lived in the Cretaceous, 1
It has been named Vectaerovenator inopinatus and belongs to the group of dinosaurs that include the Tyrannosaurus rex and today’s birds.
The name refers to the large air spaces found in some of the bones – from the creature neck, back and tail – which is one of the characteristics that helped the scientists identify its theropod origin.
These air sacs, also seen in modern birds, were extensions of the lungs, and it is likely that they “helped to operate an efficient respiratory system while making the skeleton lighter,” said the University of Southampton.
The fossils were found in three separate discoveries in 2019 and handed over to the nearby Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown, where they are displayed.
Robin Ward, a regular Stratford-upon-Avon fossil hunter, visited the Isle of Wight with his family when they discovered them.
“The joy of finding the bones we discovered was absolutely amazing,” he said.
James Lockyer, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, also visited the island when he found another of the bones.
“It looked different from marine reptile vertebrae that I have encountered before,” he said.
“I was looking for a place in Shanklin and was told and read that I would not find much there.
“But I always make sure I search in the areas that others do not, and at this point it paid off.”
Paul Farrell, from Ryde, added: “I walked along the beach, kicked rocks and came across what looked like a bone from a dinosaur.
“I was really shocked to find out that it could be a new species.”
Chris Barker, who led the University of Southampton study, said: “We were struck by how hollow this animal was – it’s full of air.
“Parts of the skeleton must have been quite sensitive.
The registration of theropod dinosaurs from the “middle” Cretaceous period in Europe is not very good, so it has been really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species from this time.
“You do not usually find dinosaurs in the deposits in Shanklin because they were in a marine habitat. You are much more likely to find fossil oysters or driftwood, so this is a rare find.”
It is likely that Vectaerovenator lived in an area just north of where its remains were found, with the carcass washed out into the shallow sea nearby.
The university results will be published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology and co-authors of those who discovered the fossils.