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Baryonyx

BARE - ee - ON - icks

Theropoda/Spinosauridae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Heavy claw"
Length: 30 feet (9 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Early Cretaceous
Location: Southern England

The first part of Baryonyx - one of the best known of British dinosaurs - to be discovered was a huge claw. In 1983, the amateur fossil-hunter William Walker happened upon it in a clay pit in Surrey, in southern England. A group of paleontologists from the Natural History Museum in London later visited the site and uncovered most of the skeleton of Baryonyx in the early Cretaceous deposits.

Baryonyx and its relatives, the spinosaurids, were very unusual theropods. The claw that led professional paleontologists to the scene was from the hand. Although saurischian dinosaurs ancestrally had enlarged thumb claws, they were nowhere near as large as those on Baryonyx and other spinosaurids. Baryonyx had very powerful forelimbs, so much so that scientists initially assumed that it was capable of walking on all fours - an idea that has since been discounted. While all theropods had strong, grasping hands, Baryonyx's hands were more massive. This suggested that it made extensive use of them for grappling with prey.

Some researchers have suggested that Baryonyx was principally a fish-eater and that it used its hands to grasp fish and its long, slender snout to snap prey out of the water. Living crocodiles that specialize in catching fish often have similarly slender jaws. Baryonyx's teeth were less flattened than the teeth of most theropods and they were very finely serrated. This feature, coupled with the thin jaws, has led many scientists to conclude that Baryonyx was not capable of attacking and bringing down large animals, and so lends support to the theory of a fish diet.

The fact that Iguanadon bones were found in Baryonyx's ribcage may suggest that it sets its sights on larger prey. However, there is no way of knowing whether Baryonyx killed this Iguanadon. It may simply have happened upon, and scavenged, an Iguanadon corpse.

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