New armoured dinosaur species from Isle of Wight identified — first in 142 years

Reconstruction of new ankylosaur species from the Isle of Wight

Palaeontologists have described a new species of armoured dinosaur from the Isle of Wight — the first such novel “ankylosaur” to come from the island in 142 years.

Unearthed some 165 feet west of Chilton Chine on the island’s south-west coast, the fossil remains were found in stages between 1993–1994.

They were preserved within the rocks of the Wessex Formation, which on the Isle of Wight dates back to roughly around 127 million years ago, during the Early Cretaceous period.

At this time, the area was a flood plain covered by a large, meandering river system — and sported a climate similar to that of the Mediterranean today.

The new species has been named Vectipelta barretti in honour of the vertebrate palaeontologist Professor Paul Barrett of the Natural History Museum.

The identification of the new species, the researchers said, shows that the ankylosaurs may have been far more diverse than was originally thought.

The study was undertaken by palaeontologist Dr Susannah Maidment of the Natural History Museum and her colleagues.

On the decision to name the new dinosaur after Prof. Barrett, Dr Maidement said: “Myself and some of the other authors on the study have been mentored or supervised by Paul for most of our careers.

“It was notable to us that Paul hadn’t had a dinosaur named after him yet. He’s hugely influential in vertebrate palaeontology, and he’s a world-leading authority on dinosaurs.”

She joked: “We really wanted to thank him for his support and mentorship, so we decided to name a slow-moving, spikey organism after him.”

On the recognition, Prof Barrett himself said: “I’m flattered and absolutely delighted to have been recognised in this way.

“Not least as the first paper I ever wrote was also on an armoured dinosaur in the Natural History Museum collections.”

He added: “I’m sure that any physical resemblance is purely accidental!”

The vertebrate palaeontologist has worked at the Natural History Museum, London for 20 years — during which time he has published an impressive 220 scientific papers and supervised a total of 31 PhD students.

Early human model shows 3.2 million-year-old Lucy could stand as erect as we do[LATEST]
Giant marine reptiles of the Jurassic were twice the size of killer whales[LATEST]
Dinosaur study shines light on how Earth’s largest-ever animals grew so big[LATEST]

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

On the ramifications of the find, lead paper author and vertebrate palaeontologist Stuart Pond, also of the Natural History Museum, said: “This is an important specimen because it sheds light on ankylosaur diversity within the Wessex formation and Early Cretaceous England.

“For virtually 142 years, all ankylosaur remains from the Isle of Wight have been assigned to Polacanthus foxii, a famous dinosaur from the island.

“Now all of those finds need to be revisited because we’ve described this new species.”

V. barretti is distinct from P. foxii in several key ways — specifically, the new species shows differences in both its pelvis and the vertebrae of the neck and back. It also sports more blade-like spiked armour.

Furthermore, the team’s analysis indicates that V. barretti and P. foxii are not actually that closely related — with the former lying nearer on the evolutionary tree to some Chinese ankylosaurs.

This, the palaeontologists said, suggests that dinosaurs were able to move freely from Asia to Europe during the Early Cretaceous.

Fossils from this time are rare worldwide — a fact that has led some palaeontologists to speculate that there may have been a mass extinction event at the end of the preceding Jurassic Period.

Accordingly, the team explained, understanding dinosaur diversity during the Early Cretaceous — as revealed from the Wessex Formation — could help determine if such an episode indeed occurred and, if so, how life recovered in its wake.

The researchers are optimistic that new dinosaur species will be discovered from the Isle of Wight in the future.

Dr Maidment concluded: “We have new iguanodontians that we are lining up to be prepped and to be studied. “I think we have at least two new taxa in the collections.

“With regards to ankylosaurs, they are somewhat rarer, so I think we need to keep our peeled.”

The remains of V. barretti are being held in the “internationally important” collections of the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown — and parts of the specimen will be on display during the school holidays

The full findings of the study were published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

Source: Read Full Article