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Spinosaurus: The Debate Rages

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

After my own literature review and consulting with Mark Witton,* let me officially declare that RIFT's Leviathan subscribes to the Hone & Holtz wading model. This is evidenced further by my art direction for Fred Wierum's incredible rendition of the animal above. Mark also suggested the posture and even gait of the animal may have resembled something akin to modern day pangolin. So, there you have it. RIFT's Spinosaurus is the pangolin-egret hybrid from your nightmares. I hope RIFT gives you nightmares, too.



*Note: to my knowledge, Mark has not taken a stance yet on the aquatic pursuit vs. wading model. In his excellent Spinosaurus blog post, and in our back-and-forth, he has pointed out different anatomical and histological features of the animal--and their possible implications--but has stressed the need for more data, studies, and fossils before committing firmly to any conclusions about its behavior and lifestyle. I agree, though for the sake of the novel I have taken the wading stance (which I believe to be the likeliest dominant behavior, though it is unlikely that it was strictly one and never the other).

Spinosaurus References Used in RIFT:

  1. Hone DWE, and Holtz TR. Evaluating the ecology of Spinosaurus: Shoreline generalist or aquatic pursuit specialist? Palaeontologia Electronica, 24(1):a03.

  2. Ibrahim N, Sereno PC, Varricchio DJ, Martill DM, Dutheil DB, Unwin DM, Baidder L, Larsson HCE, Zouhri S, Kaoukaya A (2020) Geology and paleontology of the Upper Cretaceous Kem Kem Group of eastern Morocco. ZooKeys 928: 1–216.

  3. Ibrahim, N., Maganuco, S., Dal Sasso, C. et al. Tail-propelled aquatic locomotion in a theropod dinosaur. Nature581, 67–70 (2020).

  4. Arden, T.M.S., Klein, C.G., Zouhri, S., Longrich, N.R., Aquatic adaptation in the skull of carnivorous dinosaurs (Theropoda: Spinosauridae) and the evolution of aquatic habits in spinosaurus, Cretaceous Research (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2018.06.013.

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Baryonyx Walkeri
Baryonyx Walkeri
Apr 05, 2021

Yo tampoco estoy de acuerdo que tenga patas cortas , que sea acuático y digo que es terrestre al 100%


Gray Stanback
Gray Stanback
Apr 01, 2021

I'm not completely sold on the wader model, for the simple reason that it doesn't explain why Spinosaurus had a flattened, paddle-like tail. Extant wading birds, such as herons, are usually poor swimmers, and do not have webbed feet. A flat tail, on the other hand, is a clear indication that Spinosaurus was a dedicated swimmer, and spent a significant amount of its time in deep enough water for such a feature to be useful. If Spinosaurus was a wader, never swimming in deep water, then it would neither have nor need a paddle-like tail. Also, wading birds tend to have very long, stilt-like legs-- again, very different from Spinosaurus's short legs. A good source of comparison would be Baryonyx,…

Apr 02, 2021
Replying to

Thank you for your thoughts! A flattened, paddle-like tail also does not automatically infer an aquatic pursuit lifestyle. Preliminary studies by Ibrahim suggest that the tail may have functioned with less efficiency than a saltwater crocodile's--which is also not optimized for fast swimming (note that crocodiles are also not typically pursuit predators, they tend to ambush their prey). That being said, I do believe Spinosaurus was at least a decent swimmer--I just don't think it was swimming to chase after prey, at least most of the time. The argument is not whether the animal could swim, but how it hunted.

The anatomy of Spinosaurus, at the moment, appears to support the wading model for several reasons. First, the bone structure…


Marcos Pinheiro
Marcos Pinheiro
Mar 29, 2021

Spinosaurus was an incredible and unique giant non-avian dinosaur! We still have a lot to learn about its lifestyle in North Africa back 100 million years ago. But even if the next scientific papers show that it could hunt in the water (the aquatic pursuit model), I too believe that it could hunt like a giant stork sometimes as well. So it's not innacurate or wrong to say that Spinosaurus couldn't follow the wader model. :) I'm glad to learn that paleontologist Mark Witton also consulted with the RIFT's Spinosaurus behavior too, not just with the RIFT's pterosaurs! And this is one of the best Spinosaurus reconstructions I've ever seen! Fred Wierum is very talented with his paleoartworks! Can't wait to…



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