A new species of dinosaur related to the Tyrannosaurus rex has been discovered in England.
Paleontologists at the University of Southampton have spent months studying four bones that were found last year in the village of Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England.
They finally determined that the bones were from the neck, back and tail of a new dinosaur “previously unknown to science,” according to a release from the university.
The dinosaur would have measured about 4 meters (about 13 feet) long, and is a type of theropod dinosaur – a group of carnivores that typically walked on two legs instead of four, which includes the Tyrannosaurus rex. It lived in the Cretaceous period, about 115 million years ago, according to the release.
Scientists named the dinosaur Vectaerovenator inopinatus – a name that refers to large air sacs in some of the bones, which are commonly seen in theropods, and which helped the researchers identify the species. The sacs are also seen in modern birds; they likely helped create an efficient breathing system in these dinosaurs, while also making the skeleton lighter.
“We were struck by just how hollow this animal was – it’s riddled with air spaces. Parts of its skeleton must have been rather delicate,” said Chris Barker, a PhD student at the university who led the study. “The record of theropod dinosaurs from the mid Cretaceous period in Europe isn’t that great, so it’s been really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species from this time.”
The four bones were found over several weeks last year by three different groups. This study confirmed that those separate bones were likely from the same dinosaur, which probably lived north of where its bones were found; the researchers speculate the carcass had washed out into the shallow sea nearby.
The team’s findings will be published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.
Paul Farrell, from the Isle of Wight town of Ryde, was one of the people who stumbled upon the bones. “I was walking along the beach, kicking stones and came across what looked like a bone from a dinosaur. I was really shocked to find out it could be a new species,” he said in the release.
The other two people who found the bones were both fossil hunters. The Isle of Wight is one of the top locations for dinosaur remains and fossils in Europe, and is home to the Dinosaur Isle Museum, where all of the lucky fossil hunters brought the Vectaerovenator bones.
They will now be displayed at the museum.
“This remarkable discovery of connected fossils by three different individuals and groups will add to the extensive collection we have and it’s great we can now confirm their significance and put them on display for the public to marvel at,” said Martin Munt, the museum curator.