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Volume 581 Issue 7806, 7 May 2020

A trick of the tail

The cover shows an artist’s impression of the giant theropod Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. Like other non-avian dinosaurs, spinosaurs are usually thought of as largely land-dwelling, but it has been suggested that some of them may have been semi-aquatic — an idea that has proved controversial. In this week’s issue, Nizar Ibrahim and his colleagues present a Spinosaurus fossil with a uniquely shaped tail that seems to be adapted for propulsion in water. The remains were found in the 97-million-year-old Kem Kem beds of southeastern Morocco and represent the most complete skeleton of a Cretaceous theropod found in mainland Africa to date. The flexible tail has very tall neural spines and would have been capable of extensive left-to-right movement. Modelling studies by the researchers suggest that the tail would have created significant thrust, indicating that Spinosaurus could have moved through water in a similar manner to modern crocodiles.

Cover image: Davide Bonadonna & Fabio Manucci (modelling and final composition), DI.MA. Dino Makers (colour design).

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