A species of dinosaur has been discovered decades after its bones were discovered, according to a new study.
Scientists have named the ancient reptile Brighstoneus simmondsi, which is thought to be from the early Cretaceous period, about 125 million years ago.
The genus Brightstoneous is named after Brightstone, an English town near the excavation site. Simmondsi is a tribute to amateur collector Keith Simmonds, who found the specimens.
The bones were originally discovered by Symonds in 1978 on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England. The specimens were stored at the Dinosaur Island Museum in Sandown, Isle of Wight until they were examined 40 years later for a different study.
Said study author Jeremy Lockwood, a doctoral student at the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Portsmouth, in the United Kingdom.
At the time, Lockwood was conducting research on the diversity of large, grass-feeding dinosaurs, which included Iguanodon and Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis, the most common dinosaur fossil specimens found so far on the island.
After closely examining the bones, Lockwood realized he had a new type of dinosaur on his hands.
He said that both Iguanodon and mantelisaurus had a straight and flattened nose, while Brightstone had a rounded nose. Lockwood added that Brightstoneus also had more teeth, which were designed for chewing.
In the early Cretaceous period, he said, grass and flowering plants were not widely available, so the dinosaur probably had to eat hardy plants like pine branches and ferns.
Using its femur and thigh bones, scientists estimated that the dinosaur was about 8 meters long and weighed about one ton.
Prior to this discovery, scientists identified all of the minute bones found on the island as Mantellisaurus, while the larger bones were classified as Iguanodon.
“Brightstones show that there is more diversity in lower Cretaceous dentistry than we thought,” Lockwood said.
He noted that the Brighstoneus specimens were also 4 million years older than the bones of Mantellisaurus, so it could be argued that they were unlikely to be of the same species due to the long period between the two.
Matthew McCurry, curator of paleontology at the Australian Museum in Sydney and senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales, who was not involved in the study, said some bone features, such as the jaw, are unique to Brightstones.
The longer jaw, McCurry said, was able to hold 28 teeth, some more than any other closely related species.
Lockwood is interested in researching whether the diversity of dinosaurs changed over time or remained the same over a million years.
McCurry said dinosaur bones could also reveal what the Earth looked like millions of years ago.
“Describing new species of dinosaurs is the first step in putting together what these past ecosystems looked like and learning how they changed over time,” he said.
The study, named Brightstoneus simmondsi, was published Wednesday in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology.
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