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Spinosaurus

Updated on October 24, 2015

Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is the largest predatory dinosaur discovered so far. It was bigger than the infamous T-rex, and even is depicted killing one in the 2001 film Jurassic Park 3. Spinosaurus remains have been found in Egypt and Morocco. It was 45 to 60 feet long from nose to the tip of it's tail, 18 feet high, and may have weighed 10-20 tons. Spinosaurus also sported 5-6 foot long spines on it's back. It is believed that these spines had a thin layer of skin and blood vessels between them. Possible uses for such an organ were, thermoregulation, sexual display, and species identification. Some paleontologists have even suggested the sail could have been muscular and aided Spinosaurus in swimming.

Illustration of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus dorsal vertebrae by Ernst Stromer.
Illustration of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus dorsal vertebrae by Ernst Stromer.
Stromers original depiction
Stromers original depiction

Discovery and namings

Two species of Spinosaurus have been named: Spinosaurus aegyptiacus and Spinosaurus maroccanus. The first described fossils of Spinosaurus were discovered and characterized in the early 20th century. In 1912, Richard Markgraf found an incomplete skeleton of the dinosaur in the Bahariya Formation of what is now western Egypt. In 1915, German paleontologist Ernst Stromer produced an article classifying the specimen to a new genus and species Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. The original specimen was destroyed in World War II during the 1944 British bombing of Munich which took place on the night of April 24/25. The raid damaged the building housing the Pal√§ontologische Staatssammlung M√ľnchen (Bavarian State Collection of Paleontology). However, detailed drawings and descriptions of the specimen remained and in 1995 Stromer's son donated these drawing and schematics to the museum. From these drawings and recent discoveries by American paleontologist Paul Sereno and Nizar Ibrahim of The University of Chicago, we now have a more accurate picture of how this strange theropod may have looked and behaved.

Detail of Spinosaurus skull note the pits in the snout area.
Detail of Spinosaurus skull note the pits in the snout area.

Anatomy, lifestyle, and environment

Spinosaurus and it's relatives had many unique features that set them apart from other theropods. One of these was it's skull and jaw which was long and narrow like that of a modern crocodiles. It had numerous pits in it's snout, just like many crocodilians. It also had teeth that were conical like a crocodile which are ideal for catching and holding onto slippery prey like fish. With these adaptions it is likely that Spinosaurus spent most of it's time by rivers and streams and used the pits in it's snout to detect the motion of passing fish like most crocodilians do today. During the middle cretaceous, when Spinosaurus was alive there would have been many wetlands and swamps in North Africa and Spinosaurus would have been exploiting this. It probably lived very much like the Nile crocodile of Africa today. New discoveries in 2014 by a team lead by Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist from the University of Chicago, reveals that Spinosaurus was much more adapted for an aquatic lifestyle than previously thought. The new bones show that the creature had short hind legs and may have been quadrupedal; if true it would be the first theropod found with these unique traits. Dr. Ibrahim said, "It is a really bizarre dinosaur - there's no real blueprint for it. "It has a long neck, a long trunk, a long tail, a 7ft (2m) sail on its back and a snout like a crocodile, and when we look at the body proportions, the animal was clearly not as agile on land as other dinosaurs were, so I think it spent a substantial amount of time in the water." Spinosaurus was absolutely large enough to tackle any of the other herbivorous dinosaurs in it's environment such as Oranosaurus, and Nigersaurus although now there is speculation that it only ate large sawfish called Onchopristis. Spinosaurus also had competition from other large theropods such as Carcharodontosaurus, Rugops, and Deltadromeus, however given Spinosaurus awkward body plan it may have been more cautious than other predators.

Spinosaurus as seen in Planet Dinosaur

Appearances in pop culture

Spinosaurus has been made a pop culture icon recently in the 2001 movie Jurassic park 3 as the killer of the T-Rex. The dinosaur has also made appearances in several documentaries including BBC's Planet Dinosaur, Discovery's Monsters Resurrected, and National Geographic's Bizarre Dinosaurs. Spinosaurus was also featured in the video games Warpath: Jurassic Park for PS1, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis for the PS2, and the most powerful boss in Jurassic: The Hunted for Xbox 360 and PS3. It is also featured on postage stamps in Angola, The Gambia, and Tanzania.

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    • ChrisIndellicati profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisIndellicati 

      2 years ago from New York, NY

      That's true, however length wise spinosaurus was the longest theropod discovered so far.

    • profile image

      axle17921 

      2 years ago

      people always act like Spinosaurus was the only dinosaur bigger than a trex, Carcharadontosaurus that lived along side spinosaurus was bigger than trex as well as Giganotosaurus from south America which was nearly 50 feet long and much more massive than Spinosaurus.

    • ChrisIndellicati profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisIndellicati 

      5 years ago from New York, NY

      I think so too unless spino got lucky

    • parkerhoffman profile image

      Parker Hoffman 

      5 years ago from Oviedo Florida

      I feel it is important to point out that Spinosaurus would never stand a chance against Tyrannosaurus. As previously pointed out, Spinosaurus was built lighter and made to take on fish. Tyrannosaurus has the most powerful bite ever know and was a voracious hunter, known to kill sauropods twice its size. It's brain was also larger relative to size meaning it was smarter. Spinosaurus would be out after one bite.

    • ChrisIndellicati profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisIndellicati 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      Yeah T-rex was like the Gigantic pitbull of dinosaurs with big powerful jaws, and pulverizing teeth. Even so, Spinosaurus had long muscular arms and was bigger. I guess it's whoever lands a lucky shot.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      When I first saw Spinosaurus in Jurassic Park III, I wasn't entirely sure whether it was a dinosaur they had 'invented', or at least 'exaggerated' in size, just as they exaggerated the size of the Velociraptors. It was good to later learn that it was a genuine creature, and one of the most extraordinary, and quite faithfully reproduced.

      I must admit though, I do wonder if it could really have taken on Tyrannosaurus rex in a hypothetical battle. T rex had a very solid, muscular build. Spinosaurus, for all its size, appears rather lighter in build with a long pointed snout which, as you point out, was best adapted for taking fish. Maybe we'll never know for sure whether this dinosaur tackled or steered clear of other big meat eaters, or even herbivores, unless evidence exists of such tussles.

      I'm glad you end your opening sentence 'Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is the largest predatory dinosaur discovered' with the words 'so far'. Too often, authors tend to just assume that all dinosaurs which existed have now been discovered. 'So far' implies there may be bigger ones yet to be discovered, and I really suspect that there probably are.

      Nice page ChrisIndellicati, about a dinosaur which deserves to be better known. Voted up.

    • profile image

      Hello 

      6 years ago

      Coolo dude

    • ChrisIndellicati profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisIndellicati 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      Yeah it really is a unique type of dinosaur. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it and thanks for the comment! :)

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      PurvisBobbi44 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I am glad that Spinosaurus are not living today. And their head looks like an alligator's head, it make one wonder.

      Very well written and informative--I like reading about dinosaurs, but I have never heard about this one.

      Thanks,

      Bobbi

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