(Anthony Hutchings)

Is this the biggest land predator of all time?

(Anthony Hutchings/SWNS)

A newly discovered dinosaur - the 'White Rock spinosaurid' - unearthed in the United Kingdom may turn out to be the largest land predator to have ever roamed around the European continent, say scientists.

A member of the spinosaurids group, this particular specimen is a cross between two apex predators in a T-Rex and great white shark and was able to hunt in land and on water. It also borrows some features from a crocodile, with it's long face, razor-edge gnashers and a whip-like tail. As for the size, the dinosaur was huge at over 33 feet long and weighing over five tons.

Sadly, there was a small trade off. Despite all those features, this beast shared the short arms of the T-Rex. That didn't hamper it too much, though. It was able to snap its prey in half with it's huge jaws, and this included other dinosaurs as well as big fish.

The evidence for the existsance of this dinosaur includes a number of fossils dug up on near Compton Chine on the Isle of Wight. These fossils date back 125 million years and include large pelvic bones, tail vertebrae as well as a selection of other pieces.

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Lead author Chris Barker, a palaeontology student at the University of Southampton, said this UK monster was a killer of immense proportions.

He explained: "This was a huge animal, exceeding 10 metres (33ft) in length, and judging from some of the dimensions, probably represents the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe. It is just a shame it is only known from such scant material."

The new species was entombed inside a sandstone bed known at a prehistoric graveyard called the Vectis Formation.

It has been unofficially named the 'White Rock spinosaurid' after the geological layer in which it was found.

The isle has been dubbed Dinosaur Island for its treasures - which are on display at a purpose built museum in Sandown.

More dinosaur bones have been dug up there than anywhere else in Europe. Its position at the time was roughly where Gibraltar is now. Most are from the Cretaceous period. But dinosaurs are preserved from more than one section of history - some little understood.

Corresponding author Dr Neil Gostling, a lecturer in evolution at Southampton, said: "Unusually, this specimen eroded out of the Vectis Formation, which is notoriously poor in dinosaur fossils.

"It is likely to be the youngest spinosaur material yet known from the UK."

Marks on the bone showed - even after death - the body of this monster probably supported a range of scavengers and decomposers.

Co author Jeremy Lockwood, a PhD student at the University of Portsmouth, said: "Most of these amazing fossils were found by Nick Chase, one of Britain's most skilled dinosaur hunters, who sadly died just before the Covid epidemic.

"I was searching for remains of this dinosaur with Nick and found a lump of pelvis with tunnels bored into it, each about the size of my index finger.

"We think they were caused by bone eating larvae of a type of scavenging beetle. It is an interesting thought that this giant killer wound up becoming a meal for a host of giant insects."

The researchers now plan to strip thin sections to scan internal properties of the bones to shed light on the animal's growth rate and possible age.

Co author Dr Darren Naish, from Southampton, said: "Because it's only known from fragments at the moment, we haven't given it a formal scientific name. We hope additional remains will turn up in time."

He added: "This new animal bolsters our previous argument - published last year - that spinosaurid dinosaurs originated and diversified in western Europe before becoming more widespread."

In September, the same team announced two other spinosaurs had been discovered nearby.

They named one 'hell heron' - because it hunted like the wading bird. The latest is described in the journal PeerJ.

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