Name means: Heavy Claw
Range: Late Jurassic (Valanginian-Barremian, 136-125 MYA) from England, Spain, possibly Morocco
Size estimate: 25 ft length, 1-1.5 tons
Discovery: A. J. Charig and A. C. Milne, 1986
Classification: dinosauria, saurischia, theropoda, spinosauridae, baryonychinae
When scientists first found Baryonyx, they didn’t quite know where it fit in the dinosaur family tree. Fortunately, Baryonyx is known from the most complete theropod skeleton found in England. Its discovery gave scientists enough information to recognize its relatives in later finds. We now know that Baryonyx belongs to the fish-eating spinosaur group of dinosaurs.
The odd kink at the front of Baryonyx’s jaws let the teeth mesh together, preventing slippery fish from wriggling out of its jaws. A longer snout improved its chances of catching small, swift prey. Experiments that compared Baryonyx skulls with modern crocodile skulls showed that the average spinosaur diet wasn’t limited by its skull to fish alone. This matches with what the fossil record tells us. Fossil stomach contents found in Spain confirm that Baryonyx ate mostly fish, but that it also dined on pterosaurs and young dinosaurs like Iguanodon. Later Spinosaurs may have relied even more on a diet of fish than Baryonyx. Some, like the giant Spinosaurus, may have spent most of their time in the water as a result.