UK’s most complete dinosaur fossil in a century reveals new species

John Sibbick

An impression of the recently discovered dinosaur species Comptonatus chasei, which was found on the Isle of Wight, off the coast of southern England.

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New research reveals that a previously unknown species of herbivorous dinosaur lived on an island off the south coast of England about 125 million years ago.

According to Jeremy Lockwood, a PhD candidate at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom and lead author of a study on the prehistoric creature, the dinosaur would have been as big as a large American bison and weighed about a ton.

Fossilized footprints found near the skeleton show the dinosaur was likely a herding animal, Lockwood said, adding: “There may have been large herds of these dinosaurs roaming around when startled by predators in the floodplains 120 million years ago.”

University of Portsmouth

Jeremy Lockwood at the excavation site in Compton Bay on the Isle of Wight

The dinosaur fossil, which consists of 149 bones, was discovered on the Isle of Wight in 2013 and is the most complete skeleton found in the UK in more than a century, according to research published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

The bones were found by local fossil enthusiast Nick Chase, who died of cancer in 2019.

“Nick had a phenomenal nose for finding dinosaur bones – he was truly a modern-day Mary Anning,” Lockwood said in a press release, referring to the famed 19th century paleontologist. “He collected fossils daily in all weather conditions and donated them to museums. I had hoped that we would spend our old age collecting together, since we were around the same age, but unfortunately that was not to be.”

The new dinosaur species has been named Comptonatus chasei, after Chase and the place where he found the skeleton: Compton Bay.

University of Portsmouth

The dinosaur’s large pubic bone revealed that it was a previously unknown species.

The researchers were able to determine that the skeleton belonged to a new dinosaur species because of unique features, such as the jaw and the exceptionally large pubic bone.

Lockwood described the discovery as “a remarkable find”, explaining: “It helps us to understand more about the different types of dinosaurs that lived in England during the Early Cretaceous period.”

Mike Greenslade, chief executive of the National Trust on the Isle of Wight, praised the “extraordinary discovery.”

“The discovery of the most complete dinosaur in the UK for a century not only highlights the palaeontological significance of the island, but also underlines the importance of preserving our landscapes for future generations to explore and learn from,” Greenslade said.

“Nick Chase’s remarkable find and Jeremy Lockwood’s dedicated research are testament to the incredible history waiting to be discovered here,” he added.

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