Spinosaurus appears to have been toothy and semi-aquatic; but don’t call it a crocoduck

Previously-known Spinosaurus was a dinosaur that blew my mind. I couldn’t figure out the deal with the sail and the ultra-long snout. Turns out it had more surprises in store.

Scientists report first semiaquatic dinosaur, Spinosaurus: Massive predator was more than 9 feet longer than largest T. rex — ScienceDaily.

Scientists today unveiled what appears to be the first truly semiaquatic dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. New fossils of the massive Cretaceous-era predator reveal it adapted to life in the water some 95 million years ago, providing the most compelling evidence to date of a dinosaur able to live and hunt in an aquatic environment. The fossils also indicate that Spinosaurus was the largest known predatory dinosaur to roam the Earth, measuring more than nine feet longer than the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimen.

The findings from an international team was published Sept. 11 in the journal Science online and also featured in the October National Geographic magazine cover story. Spinosaurus is the subject of a new exhibition at the National Geographic Museum and as a National Geographic/NOVA television special coming in November (where we see the stylized scientific discovery process).

The team of paleontologists, Nizar Ibrahim, Paul Sereno, Cristiano Dal Sasso, Simone Maganuco and Samir Zouhri, discovered several aquatic adaptations from new fossils from the Moroccan Sahara and fossils housed in various collections. The adaptations included an undersized pelvis, which made walking on land likely very difficult, and nostrils high up on the head. Also, the tail appeared to be able to move laterally to aid in swimming. Many dino tails are rigid and can not move this way.

There are tons of good stories about the new findings but also a pile of bad ones including those that call out Creationist Kirk Cameron who once ridiculously asked why isn’t there a “crocoduck” if evolution is true. He displayed his utter ignorance about how genetics and decent with modification works. Spinosaurus was not, by any means, genetically or physically in-between a duck and crocodile. There is no such thing. However, its features may have included webbed feet (speculation), and the jaw is huge and could snap up aquatic animals to devour, very crocodile-like.

It’s important not to use misleading analogies in writing about science. That can end up being more confusing than helpful (like this). People are likely to assume wrongly about Spinosaurus because of the misleading headlines that it was some sort of hybridWe’ll try to do our little part to fix that: It was not a crocodile, not a duck, not a crocoduck, but a really freaky dinosaur (that continues to blow my mind). We still don’t know what the hell the sail was for.

First Swimming Dinosaur Was ‘Half-Duck, Half-Crocodile’. Good article, CRAPPY headline.

Scientists Report First Semiaquatic Dinosaur, Spinosaurus – National Geographic Society Press Room. Of course another problem is constantly comparing predatory dinosaurs to the T. Rex standard.

First semiaquatic dinosaur revealed – Chicago Tribune.

Bizarre dinosaur with jaws like a crocodile, feet like a duck unveiled – CBS News. As usual, people ask stupid questions like if two certain things fought, who would win.

*Facepalm* Why does awesome science finds have to be portrayed with references to Transformers?

Ibrahim (left) and Sereno with Spinosaurus

Ibrahim (left) and Sereno with Spinosaurus

More technical but done by those who know what they are talking about. There’s something fishy about the new SpinosaurusScott Hartman’s Skeletal Drawing.com and part 2
What happems when Spinosaurus runs ashore… | Luis V. Rey Updates Blog.

  10 comments for “Spinosaurus appears to have been toothy and semi-aquatic; but don’t call it a crocoduck

  1. September 15, 2014 at 11:54 PM

    “… providing the most compelling evidence to date of a dinosaur able to live and hunt in an aquatic environment.”

    Whoever wrote that must have never heard of Hesperornis. We have known about it since the late 1800s. A quick wikipedia check shows that Spinosaurus existed before Hesperornis though.

  2. RandyRandy
    September 16, 2014 at 1:39 AM

    Bravo! Great article, strong points.
    Unfortunately, the artist’s rendering of Spinosaurus shown in all these news articles looks too much like Jar Jar Binks, IMHO. Too comical for such a formidable predator. How big were those jaws?

  3. September 16, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    Hesperornis is considered off on the avian branch by this time, it had many bird features. That can’t be said for Spinosaurus. It was a honking big dinosaur.

  4. Kurt
    September 16, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Hey, all birds are dinosaurs but not all dinosaurs are birds. So, penguins would be my favorite semi-aquatic predatory dinosaur.

  5. Bonnie
    September 16, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    “decent with modification”? Surely you meant “descent.” 🙂

    Cool dinosaur!

  6. September 16, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    As Kurt said, birds are dinosaurs. Thus, stating that this is the most compelling evidence of an aquatic dinosaur is just wrong. To be more accurate it should say “most compelling evidence for an aquatic non-avian dinosaurs.” That is an important distinction when talking about basic classification of living organisms.

  7. eddi
    September 17, 2014 at 2:17 AM

    OK not a crocoduck. How about a duckagator? (leaps out the nearest window)

  8. September 18, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    The distinction of Spinosaurus being the first compelling non-avian aquatic dinosaur was made in the paper, and made by at least me to all reporters I talked to. So blame the reporters (or, more likely, the editorial staff) if that issue is removed for the published versions.

  9. September 18, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    There is a fossil member of the croc line whose name translates to “duck crocodile”: Anatosuchus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatosuchus).

    But the creature which Kirk Cameron, Ken Ham, etc. try to parody as a “crocoduck” (i.e., the common ancestor of ducks and crocodiles, required under evolutionary theory) looked neither like crocodiles nor ducks. Some of the animals closest to that ancestor would be Euparkeria (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euparkeria) in terms of generalized anatomy.

    And of course the “crocoduck” is the same population as “gavialenguin” and “chickigator”. That is, the common ancestor of any given croc and any given bird is the same thing as the common ancestor of all crocodilians and of all birds.

  10. September 23, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    I am glad to hear that the distinction was made in the paper. I still wish that was cared over into the journalistic articles written about it.

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