A new species of dinosaur has been discovered on the Isle of Wight.
Paleontologists at the University of Southampton believe that the four skeletons found at Shanklin last year belong to a new species of arthropod.
It lived during the Cretaceous period, 115 million years ago and is estimated to be 4m (13ft) long.
It was named Vectaerovenator inopinatus and belonged to a group of dinosaurs that included Tyrannosaurus rex and modern day birds.
The name refers to the vast air space found in some bones – from the creature’s neck, back, and tail – which is one of the traits that helps scientists identify its arthropod origin. .
These airbags, also found in modern birds, are extensions of the lungs, the University of Southampton said, and it is likely that they “help fuel the efficient breathing system while at the same time making the system more comfortable. lighter bones “.
The fossils were found during three separate discoveries in 2019 and delivered to the nearby Dinosaur Island Museum in Sandown, where they are on display.
Robin Ward, a frequent fossil hunter from Stratford-upon-Avon, visited Isle of Wight with his family as they explored.
“The joy of finding the bones we found was absolutely amazing,” he said.
James Lockyer, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, was also visiting the island when he found another skeleton.
“It looks different from the sea reptile vertebrae that I have seen in the past,” he said.
“I was looking for a place in Shanklin and was told, and read, that I wouldn’t find much there.
“However, I have always made sure that I look for areas that others are not looking for, and on this occasion, that paid off.”
Paul Farrell, from Ryde, added: “I was walking along the beach, kicking the rocks and came across what looked like the bones of a dinosaur.
“I was shocked to hear it could be a new species.”
Chris Barker, head of research at the University of Southampton, said: “We are surprised by how hollow the animal is – it has holes in the air.
“Parts of its skeleton had to be quite fragile.
“The European record of arthropods from the ‘middle’ Cretaceous period in Europe is not so large, so it is really interesting to be able to improve our understanding of dinosaur diversity. from this point.
“You usually don’t find dinosaurs in mines in Shanklin when they are placed in marine habitats. You are more likely to find oyster fossils or driftwood, so this is truly a rare find. . “
It is likely that Vectaerovenator lived in the northern region where its body was found, with the animal carcasses drifting into the shallow sea nearby.
The results of the university’s research will be published in the journal Papers in Paleontology and be co-authored by those who discovered the fossils.