An Irritating Discovery


In The Osteology of Irritator: A Reappraisal of the Cranial and Mandibular Osteology of the Spinosaurid Irritator Challengeri, by Marco Schade, Oliver M.W. Rauhut, Christian Foth, Olof Moleman, and Serjoscha W. Evers on the Brazilian Spinosaurid Irritator, has revealed an interesting and irritating discovery: it could move its jaws similar to a pelican.

The team behind the paper has gone on record saying they are not responsible for such a comparison. Irritator is a Spinosaurid dinosaur from the Cretaceous. Spinosaurids, made famous after the Spinosaurus appeared in Jurassic Park 3 back in 2001, are a group of carnivorous dinosaurs with crocodile-like snouts. Over the past few years, they have had puzzling discoveries that frustrated scientists. First came with the posture of Spinosaurus, going from a bipedal animal to a knuckle walker back in 2014. Then came Spino’s tadpole-like tail discovery from 2020, and now, it’s the unique jaws of Irritator.

The Irritator fossil was acquired when German paleontologists found its skull, partially elongated and very broken, in an illegal fossil market. After purchase, the specimen was brought back to Germany, where it remains today. Fossils acquired from Brazil raise controversy as it is illegal to remove them, as it robs the country of its natural history. This is a recurrent issue, such as after the Ubirajara jubatus was discovered and removed from the country, a small dinosaur in the family of the small green guys from Jurassic Park 2, which has since been returned to Brazil.

After a recent study of the fossil, the team found that Irritator could move its jaws to be wider in the back, this is seen in modern pelicans, which gives them the throat pouch. It likely used this feature to swallow larger fish and other prey.

Perhaps within the next few years, we’ll find out some even more ridiculous features of this odd family of dinosaurs.