Dino-mite discovery! Scientists find the skeleton of a new species of dinosaur on the Isle of Wight – and say it's the most complete find in the UK in the last 100 years

A new species of dinosaur that was as big as an American bison has been dug up in the Isle of Wight – and is the ‘most complete’ fossil unearthed in the UK in a century.

The specimen – a plant-eating dinosaur that roamed the area 125 million years ago – was excavated from the cliffs of Compton Bay and has 149 bones in total.

It has been named Comptonatus chasei, after the late fossil hunter Nick Chase and the place where it was found, and has been described as a ‘remarkable’ discovery by experts.

The dinosaur belongs to a group of herbivores known as iguanodontians – large, bulky creatures that are often described as the ‘cows of the Cretaceous period’ by palaeontologists.

Jeremy Lockwood, a PhD student at the University of Portsmouth, who has spent years analysing the bones, said: ‘This animal would have been around a tonne (1,000kg), about as big as a large male American bison.

A new species of dinosaur that was as big as an American bison has been dug up in the Isle of Wight – and is the ‘most complete’ fossil unearthed in the UK in a century

The specimen – a plant-eating dinosaur that roamed the area 125 million years ago – was excavated from the cliffs of Compton Bay and has 149 bones in total

‘Evidence from fossil footprints found nearby shows it was likely to be a herding animal, so possibly large herds of these heavy dinosaurs may have been thundering around if spooked by predators on the floodplains over 120 million years ago.’

For the study, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, the researchers analysed every part of the fossil, including skull, teeth, spine and leg bones as well as a pubic hip bone ‘about the size of a dinner plate’.

Mr Lockwood said it is unclear why this hip bone, found at the base of the abdomen, was so big, but added: ‘It was probably for muscle attachments, which might mean its mode of locomotion was a bit different, or it could have been to support the stomach contents more effectively, or even have been involved in how the animal breathed, but all of these theories are somewhat speculative.’

For the study, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, the researchers analysed every part of the fossil, including skull, teeth, spine and leg bones as well as a pubic hip bone ‘about the size of a dinner plate’

Mr Lockwood said it is unclear why the dinosaur’s hip bone, found at the base of the abdomen, was so big

When Comptonatus was first discovered, the specimen was thought to be different type of dinosaur called Mantellisaurus, three-toed plant-eaters that lived in Britain more than 120 million years ago.

But Mr Lockwood said Comptonatus differed from Mantellisaurus because of the ‘unique features in its skull, teeth and other parts of its body’.

He said: ‘Its lower jaw has a straight bottom edge, whereas most iguanodontians have a jaw that curves downwards.’

Dr Susannah Maidment, senior researcher and palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum, said the work could help researchers understand how ecosystems recovered after an extinction event at the end of the Jurassic Period, 200-149 million years ago.

It has been named Comptonatus chasei, after the late fossil hunter Nick Chase (pictured) and the place where it was found, and has been described as a ‘remarkable’ discovery by experts

‘Comptonatus is a fantastic dinosaur specimen – one of the most complete to be found in the UK in a century,’ she added.

The fossil was first discovered in 2013 by Mr Chase, who died of cancer just before the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, because the dinosaur fossil was almost complete, it took Mr Lockwood and his colleagues several years before the specimen could be prepared for analysis.

Eight extinct species from the Isle of Wight have been named in the last five years.

Mr Lockwood said the latest ‘remarkable find’ shows the Isle of Wight and nearby areas may have once had ‘one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems’.

The dinosaur has been added to the collections at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown on the Isle of Wight.

source: dailymail.co.uk