Scientists have stumbled upon a new species of dinosaur belonging to the Ankylosaurus family on the Isle of Wight, an island located off the south coast of England.
This remarkable find marks the first time a new species of its kind has been found on the island since 1896. Ankylosaurs, commonly known as ‘armoured dinosaurs,’ were characterised by a complex arrangement of small and large bony plates that covered their backs and flanks. These dinosaurs lived during the Late Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Despite its intimidating appearance, this giant reptile was a herbivore, feeding exclusively on plants. Fossils of the newly-discovered dinosaur were found in rocks dating back between 66 and 145 million years. The scientists have named this ancient creature Vectipelta Barretti in honour of Professor Paul Barrett, a renowned palaeontologist who has dedicated two decades of work to the Natural History Museum in London. Professor Barrett has published 220 scientific papers on various topics related to herbivorous dinosaurs, including their origin, diversification, and extinction 66 million years ago. He has also contributed to the identification of multiple new species.
Although the newly discovered dinosaur shares some similarities with the last known ankylosaur found on the Isle of Wight, called Polacanthus foxii, scientists believe the two species are not closely related. They point out distinct differences in the neck, back, and pelvic bones of the fossils. Additionally, it is believed that the newly discovered dinosaur had more pronounced spiked armour.
Scientists speculate that a wide range of herbivorous dinosaurs during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods developed elaborate defensive features such as bony plates, spikes, and knobs. These dinosaurs are divided into two groups: stegosaurs and ankylosaurs. It is believed that both groups evolved from a common ancestor and are classified as thyreophorans, meaning ‘shield-bearers’. However, there have been longstanding questions regarding the time and location of their evolution.
Evolution of Armoured Dinosaurs
Previously, it was thought that these dinosaurs were primarily found in North America. However, in 2022, Chinese researchers made a significant discovery of an armoured dinosaur species in Asia, providing new insights into the evolution and global distribution of these fascinating creatures. Professor Paul Barrett collaborated with the Chinese team in describing the species and stated: “The armour immediately tells us it is a member of the same group of dinosaurs as stegosaurs and ankylosaurs, but the age of the dinosaur tells us it is an early member that lies just outside of either of these two groups and is close to the common ancestor of both.”
The recent discovery of the Isle of Wight has shed light on the diversity of dinosaur species present in England during that era. The island, known for its rich fossil deposits, has yielded a wealth of ancient animal remains, ranging from enormous plant-eating sauropods and formidable carnivorous dinosaurs to small herbivores resembling deer and tiny raptors.
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