Name Meaning: Spine Lizard
Geologic Era: Middle Cretaceous
Location Discovered: Egypt, with other fragmentary remains from Morocco
Size: At least 50 feet in length
Estimated Range: Modern Northern Africa
Extinction Date: Late Cretaceous
We have 4 Spinosaurus teeth in the collection. One of these teeth has been set into a necklace, which I wear quite often. It is closer in size to the juvenile teeth, meaning it is probably from a juvenile or subadult as well. The two small teeth pictured are probably not from the same animal, though I have positioned them to give a better overall impression of the shape of the tooth. All of these teeth come from Northern Africa.
Spinosaurus is an interesting animal not only in its morphology, but also in its paleontological history. The first specimen was unearthed by Ernst Stromer in the early part of the 20th century. One only has to look at Stromer’s detailed drawings to know that this was a spectacular find. Sadly, the original specimen was destroyed during a bombing raid in World War II. More Spinosaurus material was not unearthed until decades later, and even then this material is very fragmentary. Teeth are by far the most common finds. What truly sets Spinosaurus and its kin apart are the prominent neural spines on the vertebrae. These spines may have supported a sail-like structure, which could have been used for anything from thermoregulation to display.
Even today, a complete Spinosaurus skeleton has not been found. For an animal to be reconstructed from fragmentary remains, paleontologists look to closely related animals. In this case, reconstruction was partially based on Baryonyx walkeri, a similarly structured animal found in England. Other animals similar to Spinosaurus have since been unearthed, such as Suchomimus, which gives further insight into Spinosaurus’ appearance.
Another striking feature of the spinosaur family is their crocodile-like skull. On the most anterior part of the skull, Spinosaurus possessed small pits which are very similar to those seen in modern crocodiles. These pits house pressure sensors that allow modern crocodiles to sense prey in the water. It is possible that Spinosaurus operated in a similar manner, and may have primarily hunted fish. If this is the case, than Spinosaurus would have been able to exploit a food source with minimal competition. Whatever the pits true function, they served an animal that is the largest theropod yet discovered. If they did help with hunting, it would explain how Spinosaurus attained its formidable size.
Swimming Skeleton:By Mike Bowler from Canada – Spinosaurus, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36582299
Life Restoration: http://spinops.blogspot.com/2014/10/spinosaurus-aegyptiacus.html