The gigantic fearsome creatures that dominated the earth millions of years ago have always been a center of fascination for the scientific community. The fossilized remains of dinosaurs have provided useful insights into their structure, function and physiology. Spinosaurus was once known to a giant dinosaur with a characteristic sail like structure standing upright on its back- a sail that rose to the height of an average human. There has been no evidence which showed that dinosaurs possessed the ability to swim. There has been a surprising revelation in a recent study which says that this extinct animal was the exclusive dinosaur to have found home in water. It has been shown to have adaptations that enabled to be completely adapted to living in water. This new finding indicates that there could be many more misinterpretations and poor understanding about these creatures.
The interesting discovery
It was a German paleontologist Stromer who was the first to find the bones and spines of Spinosaurus and thus described what the creature was like and this was way back in 1915. His detailed descriptions and illustrated version of his understanding of the dinosaur were destroyed in an accident in Munich. Later, some others found fragmented bones of Spinosaurus but the ones found and described by Stromer were matchless. It was later in 2008 that a local fossil hunter at Kem Kem Beds, Morocco brought sediments and bones to the notice of Nizar Ibrahim, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Chicago. It was this one blade like bone that captured attention and the entire collection was kept in the university collection in Casablanca.
What led scientists to believe Spinosaurus had an association with aquatic habitat? A series of studies led to the strengthening of the belief. All the bones that were investigated were found to be of high density and the hollow medullary cavity in the bones of limbs was also missing. This had a direct correlation with aquatic habitat since only marine animals were known to have bones of such density and serve as a kind of buoyancy control. It was then that a computer generated digital model of the dinosaur tale was created using inputs from Stromer’s illustrations and other studies on Spinosaurus worldwide. The skeletal model thus generated indicated an aquatic lifestyle.
How it managed to survive in water
If you take a closer look at the skeleton model, it can be seen that Spinosaurus has crocodile like teeth that interlock and are best suited for catching prey while swimming. The location of the nostrils also mimics that of aquatic organisms, that is on top of the head (September, the Science journal).The tail was also found to be rudderlike which may have helped it to cut through water easily and it had small hind limbs and paddle like feet- again a common features of aquatic animals. It was also analysed that the dinosaur had its center of mass in its anterior portion of the body that would have increased its adaptability in water. The theory as to how Spinosaurus swam through water is still understood but it has been suggested that it used both its leg and tail to propel itself (Paul Sereno, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Chicago).
Since the dino had paddle like feet, scientists are speculating that it may have had webbed feet that would have facilitated its survival in water, though no concrete evidence for this is available. With all of the information available to us, we can only suppose that this huge dino was a blend of a duck and a crocodile. This chimeric dinosaur has opened up new perspectives for research in the field of fossil study and has changed the way we looked at dinosaurs since we always imagined them to be terrifying creatures that roamed only on the firm earth.