Two new species of large predatory dinosaur have been uncovered by fossil hunters in a discovery hailed as a “major surprise” by researchers.
Palaeontologists confirmed that the remains discovered on an Isle of Wight beach over a number of years belonged to a previously unknown species.
The carnivorous dinosaurs were thought to be 9m (29ft) long with 1m (3ft) skulls.
They roamed the south coast 125 million years ago, according to researchers.
Ceratosuchops inferodios and Riparvenator milnerae, the new dinosaurs discovered, belonged to the spinosaurid group of theropod dinosaurs, which are distinguished by hollow bones and three-toed feet.
Before a team from the island’s Dinosaur Isle Museum discovered a large section of a tail, fossil collectors discovered parts of two skulls.
It comes after the discovery of the last spinosaurid skeleton, that of Baryonyx, in a quarry in Surrey in 1983. Since then, only single bones and isolated teeth have been discovered.
“We found the skulls to differ not only from Baryonyx, but also from one another,” said University of Southampton PhD student Chris Barker, “suggesting the UK housed a greater diversity of spinosaurids than previously thought.”
“We’ve known for a couple of decades now that Baryonyx-like dinosaurs awaited discovery on the Isle of Wight, but finding the remains of two such animals in close succession was a huge surprise,” said co-author Darren Naish, an expert in British theropod dinosaurs.
The study also hypothesised that spinosaurids originated in Europe before spreading to Asia, Africa, and South America.
The approximately 50-bone collection will be displayed at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown.
Dr Martin Munt, the Isle of Wight’s curator, said the discoveries cemented the Isle of Wight’s reputation as one of Europe’s top locations for dinosaur remains.