Recently, paleontologists announced the discovery of a long, paddlelike tail marked Spinosaurus as the first-known semi-aquatic dinosaur.
The current model of Spinosaurus took over a century to assemble. In 1915, German paleontologist Ernst Stromer named Spinosaurus, a carnivorous dinosaur that stalked Cretaceous Egypt and bore a tall sail on its back. But, not long after the dinosaur’s description, the only known fossils were destroyed during a 1944 Allied bombing raid of Munich. Spinosaurus was lost to science.
Bits and pieces turned up over the following decades from Egypt and Morocco’s fossil market.
Finds of related animals started to change the image of Spinosaurus, too — shifting it from a Tyrannosaurus-like chomper to a crocodile snouted fish-eater with huge claws. Yet paleontologists were still lacking a complete specimen.
That all changed in the late 2000s, when pieces of a partial Spinosaurus skeleton surfaced from a fossil collector, and later at a museum in Milan.
Traced back to their source among the Kem Kem beds of Morocco, the fossil turned out to be the first reasonably complete Spinosaurus found in a century. The finds revealed that Spinosaurus had a long snout full of conical teeth and comically stubby back legs. What’s more, the dense structure of the dinosaur’s bones hinted that its skeleton had naturally steadied the animal as it swam about Cretaceous waterways.
But experts disagreed on whether all the bones belonged to the same animal or even the same species.
To solve the debate, paleontologists went back to the source. The expedition was a success. A search of the quarry that had yielded the latest specimen also turned up something new — a tail.
Described early in 2020, the tail of Spinosaurus was long, thick and eel-like — no other known dinosaur had one like this.
Now, how the dinosaur used its tail and how much time it spent swimming is up for debate.
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