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Lost-and-found dinosaur thrived in water

Fossils pieced together through ridiculous luck revise view of Spinosaurus

2:00pm, September 11, 2014
reconstruction of sail-backed Spinosaurus

SPLASHIEST DINO  Sail-backed Spinosaurus was unique among known dinosaurs for its water-adapted body, and four-legged gait on land, as demonstrated by a sculpture in the National Geographic Society’s courtyard in Washington, D.C.

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Fossils brought together by unlikely chances now suggest that the sail-backed Spinosaurus was no mere wade-in-the-water fish-catcher. Instead, it is the only known dinosaur that routinely took to the water.  

Plenty of big reptiles plied prehistoric waters, but they weren’t dinosaurs. Some dinos clearly ate fish, but that doesn’t mean they swam much.  

Now bones of a Spinosaurus traced to a freelance fossil digger’s trove in Morocco have inspired a new look at the 15-meter-long predator, which was first described in 1915. Rising from the beast’s back was a bony flap as tall as a human being. The Morocco finds, plus a digital model based on them and other fossil material, show that the species was “the first dinosaur with unmistakable adaptations for a life spent to a large extent in water,” says Nizar Ibrahim of the University of Chicago.

Other researchers are

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