The world’s first semi-aquatic dinosaur is now on display at the National Geographic Museum.
The discovery of the Spinosaurus (so named for its spine) came about through a random chance opportunity. In 2008, University of Chicago paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim was approached by a Moroccan fossil hunter while in Morocco about a find he had stumbled upon. Ibrahim approached the individual and discovered that the fossil hunter had discovered a dinosaur longer than even the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The creature was 50 feet long, had scales on his spine that gave him a “fish-like look,” and a snout that made him look like a crocodile underwater. He decided to pay the fossil hunter and eventually received a $600,000 research grant to from the National Geographic to ship the bones back to Chicago. The bones were in the US by February 2012.
The Spinosaurus is the world’s first semi-aquatic dinosaur to be discovered from the ruins of time, but the fossil Ibrahim was shown was not the first to be found. Rather, a partial skeleton of the Spinosaurus was discovered in the early twentieth century but was destroyed with the Munich bombing in 1944. The Munich bombing and the loss of the first remains of the Spinosaurus make the new find that much more significant.
“We knew a lot about the Spinosaurus before this, about bones and other individual fossils, but we didn’t have a partial skeleton that would serve as a Rosetta Stone, which would help us put the animal together and envision its size and proportion,” said University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno, who also worked with Ibrahim on the Spinosaurus find.
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The Spinosaurus find also becomes significant because it marks an evolutionary animal between dinosaurs as land creatures and underwater sea creatures such as fish. The Spinosaurus confirms what many evolutionists have said about intermediate creatures between various species, particularly when one looks at land mammals versus sea creatures. At the same time, however, a million finds of intermediate land/sea hybrid creatures does not yet solve one of the more puzzling questions about the human race: where is the intermediate creature between the most advanced animal and the human being?
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Those interested in seeing the Spinosaurus can do so at the National Geographic Museum starting today in the exhibit titled “Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous.” The exhibit is on display from today through April 12, 2015. The exhibit itself holds some of the fossils found from the Morocco discovery, but the majority of the Spinosaurus fossils are still at the University of Chicago in the lab of fellow UC paleontologist, Paul Sereno.