A Spalding man found one of the bones that could belong to a new species of theropod dinosaur, according to new study by Palaeontologists at the University of Southampton.
The bones were found over a period of weeks in 2019 in three separate discoveries on the foreshore at Shanklin – two by individuals, including James Lockyer from Spalding, and one by a family group. All of them handed their finds to the nearby Dinosaur Isle Museum at Sandown.
The bones were from the neck, back and tail of the new dinosaur, which has been named Vectaerovenator inopinatus. The name Vectaerovenator inopinatus refers to the large air spaces in some of the bones, one of the traits that helped the scientists identify its theropod origins.
The dinosaur, in the group that includes Tyrannosaurus Rex and modern-day bird, lived in the Cretaceous period 115 million years ago and is estimated to have been up to four metres long.
James Lockyer, who is also a regular fossil hunter, was visiting the island when he found one of the bones.
He said: “It looked different from marine reptile vertebrae I have come across in the past. I was searching a spot at Shanklin and had been told and read that I wouldn’t find much there. However, I always make sure I search the areas others do not, and on this occasion it paid off.”
After studying the four vertebrae, the palaeontologists confirmed that the bones are likely to belong to a genus of dinosaur previously unknown to science. The fossils are very likely to be from the same individual dinosaur.
It is likely that the Vectaerovenator lived in an area just north of where its remains were found, with the carcass having washed out into the shallow sea nearby.
Chris Barker, a PhD student at the university who led the study, said: “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.
“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.
“You don’t usually find dinosaurs in the deposits at Shanklin as they were laid down in a marine habitat. You’re much more likely to find fossil oysters or drift wood, so this is a rare find indeed.
“Although we have enough material to be able to determine the general type of dinosaur, we’d ideally like to find more to refine our analysis. We are very grateful for the donation of these fossils to science and for the important role that citizen science can play in palaeontology.”