scorecardA brand new dinosaur species with spiky armor was recently discovered to have roamed England during the Cretaceous period
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A brand new dinosaur species with spiky armor was recently discovered to have roamed England during the Cretaceous period

Jenny McGrath   

A brand new dinosaur species with spiky armor was recently discovered to have roamed England during the Cretaceous period
LifeScience2 min read
  • A new species of dinosaur, Vectipelta barretti, was discovered on England's Isle of Wight.
  • The new species is an ankylosaur, with dorsal armor made up of plates, spikes, and curved spines.

Scientists discovered a new species of ankylosaur, named Vectipelta barretti, which roamed England's Isle of Wight between 66 and 145 million years ago.

Its discovery, published this month in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, will force researchers to reexamine older specimens to determine if they were misidentified.

"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," lead author Stuart Pond, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Natural History Museum, said in a press release.

Ankylosaurs were usually herbivorous, wide, "bird-hipped" dinosaurs with short limbs. Their heads, backs, and tails were covered in armor made of bony deposits.

The armor of the Vectipelta barretti was made up of a variety of shapes, including flattened plates, rounded scutes, and large backward-curving spines. This specimen was about 33 feet (10 meters) long and weighed several tons, according to CNN. For comparison, an average saltwater crocodile is about half that size.

Fossil hunters, professional and amateur, have been finding dinosaur bones on the Isle of Wight since the 1820s. In 1865, Reverend William Fox found the island's first type of ankylosaurus, Polacanthus foxii.

But the newly-discovered species, Vectipelta, is thought to have been between 6 and 8 million years older than Polacanthus and has a few anatomical differences. In addition to its large, curved spikes, the Vectipelta has a different pelvic structure and some differences in its neck and back vertebrae compared to Polacanthus. Depressions in its armor may indicate where the Vectipelta had scales.

Moreover, while the Vectipelta and Polacanthus were both found on the island, the newly discovered species is more similar to ankylosaurs found in China, according to evolutionary analysis. This suggests that the species could have moved between Asia and Europe during the Early Cretaceous.

The island's Wessex Formation, where the fossils were found, has a wealth of fossils amongst the red mudstones and grayish sandstones. Floods strong enough to carry dinosaur bones would deposit them on floodplains where conditions were right for preservation. In addition to the larger bones, the formation contains fossilized fish, turtles, and crocodilians.

The Isle of Wight is a goldmine for fossil hunters. Since 2019, at least four other new dinosaur species have been discovered there and scientists aren't holding back with some of the names. One of the recent discoveries included a carnivorous spinosaurid, Ceratosuchops inferodios, whose name means "horned crocodile-faced hell heron."




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