dailymail.co.uk | By Daily Mail Reporter (Last updated at 11:02 AM on 15th June 2011)
Scientists are rewriting the history of dinosaurs after a fossil from a species previously believed to live only in the northern hemisphere was found in Australia.
A neck vertebrae discovered in Victoria is identical to that of a Baryonyx, a fish-eating dinosaur from the Spinosaurid family that was larger than a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The find threatens to destroy the notion that dinosaurs from the spinosaurid family lived only in the northern hemisphere.
Spinosaurid dinosaurs such as the Baryonyx had a small skull with a crocodile-like snout, walked on two legs and and preyed on fish and small animals.
They were believed to live mainly in the northern hemisphere, a theory confirmed by the discovery of a Baryonyx fossil near Dorking in Surrey in 1983.
But the discovery that the neck vertebrae found on the Australian coast is identical to the 1983 Surrey fossil means that scientists are starting to believe the meat-eating dinosaurs lived all over the planet.
Paul Barrett Natural History Museum dinosaur expert who led the study said: ‘The new fossil is the first example of a spinosaurid dinosaur from Australia.
‘It is almost identical to the Natural History Museum’s own Baryonyx specimen from England.’
He said the find and other discoveries including that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in Australia mean that the classification of dinosaurs according to which species lived on northern and southern continents looks incorrect.
‘They [ the finds] are showing that many of the dinosaurs that we used to think of as distinctively “northern” or “southern” in character were much more widespread during this particular period of Earth history.
‘Although the vertebra is clearly a spinosaurid, there is not enough of the animal preserved to make the detailed comparisons necessary to work out how similar or different it was to the other known members of the group,’ he says.
‘For this reason we decided not to name it, nor did we try to shoe-horn it into any existing genus. We hope that future discoveries will tell us much more about the anatomy and relationships of this animal.’