‘Absolutely fantastic’ discovery unearths new dinosaur species in the UK

12 Aug 2020

Still from ‘New species of dinosaur discovered on Isle of Wight - University of Southampton’. Image: UoS News Desk/YouTube

Researchers working on the Isle of Wight have discovered a new species of dinosaur and potentially a whole new genus.

A new species of theropod dinosaur and a distant descendant of modern-day birds has been discovered in an area rich in fossilised remains. Researchers from the University of Southampton have published their findings on four fossilised bones from the creature’s neck, back and tail, which were discovered on the Isle of Wight in the UK last year.

The dinosaur lived approximately 115m years ago during the Cretaceous period and has been dubbed Vectaerovenator inopinatus. This name refers to the large air spaces in some of the bones, one of the traits that helped the scientists identify its theropod origins.

These air sacs, also seen in modern birds, were extensions of the lung and likely helped to make the dinosaur’s skeleton lighter and fuel a more efficient breathing system.

The fossils were found in three separate discoveries, two by individuals and one by a family group, and were handed into the Dinosaur Isle Museum. The University of Southampton study confirmed all three finds were likely from the same individual dinosaur, bolstered by the location and timing of the discoveries.

A ‘rare find indeed’

“The joy of finding the bones we discovered was absolutely fantastic,” said Robin Ward, one of the fossil hunters who made a discovery.

“I thought they were special and so took them along when we visited Dinosaur Isle Museum. They immediately knew these were something rare and asked if we could donate them to the museum to be fully researched.”

The researchers confirmed the bones are likely to belong to a genus of dinosaur previously unknown to scientists. Chris Barker, a PhD student who led the study, said this was a “rare find indeed”, due to the fact the remains likely washed down to their resting spot from a location further north.

“We were struck by just how hollow this animal was – it’s riddled with air spaces. Parts of its skeleton must have been rather delicate,” he said.

“The record of theropod dinosaurs from the mid-Cretaceous period in Europe isn’t that great, so it’s been really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species from this time.”

Barker added that the hunt is now on for more samples of the dinosaur to better understand this newly discovered creature.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic