TUESDAY, 26 JANUARY 2021The word ‘dinosaur’ may once have conjured up the image of a lizard-like beast galloping across prehistoric lands, but that perception has changed. It is currently agreed amongst scientists that many dinosaurs were indeed feathered or fluffy, and it is well known that birds are living remnants of the dinosaurs themselves. New research has now provided an added twist in our understanding of the magnificent creatures that once populated our Earth.
It had previously been thought that non-avian dinosaurs were restricted to terrestrial environments, with only a few hints that some dinosaurs may have had a more versatile lifestyle. In particular, it was suggested that the spinosaurids — giant, sail-finned carnivores — may have had ‘semi-aquatic’ behaviour. The latest research from Dr Nizar Ibrahim and colleagues, however, has suggested that one Spinosaurus species may have significantly inhabited the waters, opening up the possibility for a ‘substantial invasion of aquatic environments by dinosaurs’. The researchers found Spinosaurus tail bones with long spikes, suggesting that this creature had a large tail fin that could propel its body through water. Reconstructions of the Spinosaurus tail fin have shown that it has a thrust and efficiency more comparable to crocodiles than other similar dinosaurs.
All in all, perhaps the name ‘terrible lizard’ (deinos sauros) is not as representative as ‘destructive bird’ or ‘tyrannical crocodile’.
Artwork by Rita Sasidharan.