January 14, 2008
This bizarre British dinosaur may look like a meat-eater, but its skull actually functioned more like that of a fish-eating crocodile, a new study has found.
When eating, Baryonyx walkeri'
s skull stretched and bent in a similar fashion to the modern-day gavial
, or gharial, an Indian crocodile with long, narrow jaws.
This spinosaur—part of a family of dinosaurs called "spine lizards," which lived about 125 million years ago—also had large, 12-inch-long (30-centimeter-long) front claws.
The 30-foot-long (9-meter-long) animal may have used them for scooping fish from the water (see above illustration).
In the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
, researchers used an engineering technique to compare digital models of snouts of gavials and Baryonyx
The data show that, through "quirks in evolutionary history," the two species had different-shaped skulls that achieved the same outcomeeating fish.
"This shows us that in some cases there is more than one evolutionary solution to the same problem," study co-author Angela Milner, of the Natural History Museum in London, said in a statement.
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Illustration by Julian Hume ) The Natural History Museum, London