New dinosaur species discovered in the Isle of Wight

16 Jun 2023

Image: Stuart Pond

Named after palaeontologist Paul Barrett, the Vectipelta barretti sheds light on ankylosaur diversity in pre-historic Britain.

Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur on the UK’s Isle of Wight that bears a resemblance to some remains previously found in China, suggesting trans-Eurasian movement in the early Cretaceous period.

Published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology yesterday (15 June), the new, previously unknown species belongs to a dinosaur family known as ankylosaurs. It is the first such fossil to be found on the Isle of Wight since 1865.

The study estimates that the rocks in which the ankylosaur fossil – officially called Vectipelta barretti – were found date back to anywhere between 66m and 145m years ago. Dinosaurs are generally believed to have gone extinct around 66m years ago.

Named after Prof Paul Barrett, who has worked at the Natural History Museum in London for two decades, the dinosaur is described as having blade-like armour and being herbivorous.

Natural History Museum researcher Stuart Pond said that all ankylosaur remains from the Isle of Wight have been assigned to a different species called Polacanthus foxii for 142 years.

“Now all of those finds need to be revisited because we’ve described this new species,” he was quoted as saying by Sky News.

“This is an important specimen because it sheds light on ankylosaur diversity within the Wessex formation and Early Cretaceous England.”

Scientists also found that the new species is distinct from its cousin found on the island in the 1800s because it has different neck and back bones as well as contrasting pelvic structures and more spiked armour.

“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 Museum collections,” said Barrett. “I’m sure that any physical resemblance is purely accidental.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic