Spinosaurus is a very big theropod (meat-eating dinosaur) that lived during the Early Cretaceous period in North Africa. It is the longest theropod found so far. It is known for the tall sail/hump on its back and its croc-like face.
What was their body shape?
Spinosaurus was about 15 metres (45 ft) long and 4 metres tall, with the sail adding another 2 metres. According to scientists, it could've weighed between 5 and 17 tons, more likely the former. Its backbones had long projections called neural spines. The spines could have supported a sail of skin or a fatty hump, like a camel. Its skull was 6 feet long and shaped like a crocodile's, with one little crest at the top, between the eyes. Its mouth had a notch at the tip, giving it a hook-like appearance.
What did they eat?
Spinosaurus was a predator that lived near and in water. Its croc-like snout was tipped with tiny holes and pits which contained nerves, so it could sense the water pressure. Its teeth were neither curved and blade-like as in Allosaurus or the raptors, nor thick and banana-shaped as in Tyrannosaurus, instead being smooth, straight and cone-shaped: perfect for impaling and holding fish. Its claws were curved for slashing and for stabbing small animals. Evidence for a fish-eating diet include a barb from a giant sawfish stuck in a jaw of a Spinosaurus. Other creatures that may were part of its diet include turtles, fish, small dinosaurs and even large crocodiles!
When did they live?
Spinosaurus lived 112 to 93 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous. It was the top predator in its region, alongside Carcharodontosaurus.
What was their habitat?
Spinosaurus lived in a habitat that may have been humid, like a swamp, where it could hunt coelacants, sawfish, groupers and ambush small crocodiles. Its fossils have been found in Egypt and Morocco, with possibly a similar dinosaur called Oxalaia found in South America.
How were they discovered?
The first fossils of this creature were found in 1916 by a German paleontologist called Ernst Stromer. The fossils were displayed in a museum in Munich, Germany. Unfortunately, the Allied Forces bombed the museum during World War ll, resulting in everything being destroyed. All that was left was a sketch of the animal's skeleton, so little was known about it. However, all was not lost.
In 2014, more complete remains were found, painting a better picture of this weird creature. A replica of the complete skeleton is on display in the National Geographic Museum, with a life-sized 3D printed statue standing outside the building.
What do we need to know?
- What color were they? The sail might have been brightly coloured to attract a female, or scare predators.
- Could it run?
- Was it really the biggest predator? Spinosaurus lived with the giant theropod Carcharodontosaurus and may have encountered it now and then.