A new genus and species of theropod dinosaur from the Cretaceous period has been identified from bones found on the Isle of Wight, the United Kingdom.
The newly-discovered dinosaur roamed the Earth approximately 115 million years ago (Cretaceous period).
It belongs to Tetanurae, a group that includes most theropod dinosaurs, including megalosauroids, allosauroids, tyrannosauroids, ornithomimosaurs, maniraptorans, and birds.
Named Vectaerovenator inopinatus, the ancient creature is estimated to have been up to 4 m (13.1 feet) long.
The fossilized bones from the neck, back and tail of the new dinosaur were found over a period of weeks in 2019 in three separate discoveries, two by individuals and one by a family group, on the foreshore near Knock Cliff on the Isle of Wight.
“The joy of finding the bones we discovered was absolutely fantastic. I thought they were special and so took them along when we visited Dinosaur Isle Museum,” said Robin Ward, a fossil hunter who was with his family visiting the Isle of Wight when they made their discovery.
“They immediately knew these were something rare and asked if we could donate them to the museum to be fully researched.”
“It looked different from marine reptile vertebrae I have come across in the past,” said regular fossil hunter James Lockyer.
“I was walking along the beach, kicking stones and came across what looked like a bone from a dinosaur,” added regular fossil hunter Paul Farrell.
“I was really shocked to find out it could be a new species.”
Vectaerovenator inopinatus had large air spaces in some of the bones, one of the traits that helped the paleontologists identify its theropod origins.
These air sacs, also seen in modern birds, were extensions of the lung, and it is likely they helped fuel an efficient breathing system while also making the skeleton lighter.
“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,” said lead author Chris Barker, a Ph.D. student at the University of Southampton.
“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.”
“It is likely that Vectaerovenator inopinatus lived in an area just north of where its remains were found, with the carcass having washed out into the shallow sea nearby.”
The team’s paper will be published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.