Scientists have uncovered fossils from a huge predatory dinosaur in the Italian Alps. The dinosaur is believed to have been larger than the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex. Paleontologists say it was a carnivore which roamed northern Italy about 198 million years ago, according to Reuters. Researchers believe the carnivorous animal lived an extraordinary life, although they add that the way it died is also worth pointing out.
According to Reuters, scientists say the huge predatory dinosaur, also known as Saltriovenator zanellai, measured about 25 feet long and weighed at least a ton. The researchers said on Wednesday that it likely lived during the Early Jurassic Period and that it probably was the largest carnivorous dinosaur alive during that time.
What happened at the end of its life is also interesting. Somehow the dinosaur’s carcass ended up in the sea where it sunk to the bottom. Then various marine animals tore it apart and fed on it for months or even years before it became a fossil. The research team determined this after examining the bite marks they say were probably left by sharks and fish which fed on the dinosaur’s carcass after it died. There were even marks of feeding by invertebrates like sea urchins and small penetration holes left by marine worms, they add. They published their findings in the journal PeerJ.
“This is absolutely unique,” lead researcher and paleontologist Cristiano Dal Sasso of the Milan Natural History Museum said, according to Reuters. “In the scientific literature, there is mention of some dinosaur bones scavenged only by terrestrial animals, such as other dinosaurs, and, more rarely, insects. At least three kinds of marine animals left those traces on the bones of Saltriovenator.”
The researchers say Saltriovenator had characteristics of both primitive carnivorous dinosaurs and more advanced species. They believe the huge predatory dinosaur was a precursor of even larger dinosaur species which lived later in the Jurassic Period and during the Cretaceous Period. It’s also the second dinosaur to be unearthed in Italy. The researchers published their findings in the journal PeerJ.
Saltriovenator means “hunter from Saltrio,” and scientists say it could walk on two legs and has a skull which measures 2.5 feet in length. They also said the huge predatory dinosaur was equipped with long, sharp teeth which enabled it to tear apart its enemies. It also had hands with four fingers, of which three were equipped with claws.
The researchers estimate the dinosaur’s age at about 24 years, which means it wasn’t full-grown when it died. They believe it inhabited a Caribbean-like coast and hunted plant-eating dinosaurs and smaller meat-eating dinosaurs.
“Paleohistological analysis indicates that Saltriovenator was a still growing subadult individual; therefore its estimated size is all the more remarkable, in the context of the Early Jurassic Period,” study co-author Simone Maganuco said in a statement.
The fossils of this huge predatory dinosaur were unearthed in 1996 near the village of Saltrio, which is located about 50 miles north of Milan in the Lombardy region. It took researchers so long to process the fossils because of the difficulties they faced in carefully extracting all the bones from the rock in which they were embedded.