Armoured dinosaur discovered on Isle of Wight ‘for first time in 142 years’

An artist's impression of Vectipelta barretti

A new species of dinosaur with an armoured body has been discovered on the Isle of Wight for the first time in 142 years.

Belonging to a group of plant-eating dinosaurs known as ankylosaur, its remains were found in the island’s Wessex Formation – a fossil site dating back to somewhere between 145 to 66 million years ago.

The new species has been named Vectipelta barretti – after Professor Paul Barrett who has worked at the Natural History Museum in London for 20 years.

It is the second armoured dinosaur to be found on the island, the first one being Polacanthus foxii – which was unearthed in 1865.

Stuart Pond, a researcher at Natural History Museum’s Department of Earth Sciences, said: “For virtually 142 years, all ankylosaur remains from the Isle of Wight have been assigned to Polacanthus foxii, a famous dinosaur from the island, now all of those finds need to be revisited because we’ve described this new species.”

Prof Paul Barrett said: "I'm flattered and absolutely delighted to have been recognised in this way"

V barretti differs from its predecessor P foxii in its neck and back bones.

The analysis also shows both species have different pelvic structures and V barretti has a more blade-like spiked armour.

Although both ankylosaurs originated from the same island, the researchers found they were not very closely related.

In fact, they said, V barretti is most closely related to some Chinese ankylosaurs, suggesting these dinosaurs moved freely from Asia to Europe in the Early Cretaceous period (145 to 66 million years ago).

Mr Pond said: “This is an important specimen because it sheds light on ankylosaur diversity within the Wessex formation and Early Cretaceous England.”

The researchers said rocks from the Wessex Formation and the Isle of Wight are “hugely important” in understanding more about how dinosaurs went extinct.

Speaking of the honour, Prof Barrett said: “I’m flattered and absolutely delighted to have been recognised in this way, not least as the first paper I ever wrote was also on an armoured dinosaur in the NHM collections.

“I’m sure that any physical resemblance is purely accidental.”

The findings are described in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

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