Published on June 20th, 2022 | by Liz Martin-Silverstone


Episode 140: Aquatic Spinosaurids

In the last few years there has been lots of new work on the iconic Spinosaurus – was it aquatic? What about its relatives? What kind of evidence can we look at to tell us this answer? In this episode we speak with Dr. Matteo Fabbri, from the Field Museum of Chicago, who has been working on Spinosaurus and other relatives and has recently published a detailed study supporting the idea that some spinosaurids were likely a swimming, aquatic dinosaur at least part of the time. He walks us through the evidence for spinosaurids being semi-aquatic and tells us why they think they could swim.

Dr. Fabbri uncovering cervical and cranial bones of the Neotype of Spinosaurus
Kem Kem beds, Sahara desert, Morocco
Osteohistology and ecological variation among amniotes, including the analysed spinosaurid taxa. a, Bipedal, land-dwelling archosaurs such as theropods show the presence of an open medullary cavity. This condition is more pronounced in flying archosaurs such as birds. Two osteosclerotic patterns are present among subaqueous foraging animals: (1) increase in thickness of the bone cortex, as observed in crocodilians and penguins, for animals adapted to shallow waters; or (2) substitution of the bony cortex with trabecular networks, usually found in deep divers—for example, ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs and cetaceans. Occupation of the medullary cavity by spongiosa is also observed in quadrupedal, graviportal animals such as sauropods, ornithischians and large-bodied terrestrial mammals. Image from Fabbri et al. (2022).
Spinosaurus caudals in situ.
Life reconstruction of a swimming Baryonyx. Artwork by Davide Bonadonna
Artist reconstruction of Spinosaurus ecology. Artwork by Davide Bonadonna

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