10 Hooked Facts About Baryonyx


Márcio Luiz // CC BY 2.5

Long-snouted Baryonyx is a rock star in Britain, though you won't see one palling around with Ringo anytime soon…

1. It Was Discovered by a Plumber.

When he wasn’t tinkering with pipes, U.K. native William Walker avidly hunted fossils. In 1983, he found a strange-looking rock nestled in an unassuming clay pit—and when he cracked it open, he found a huge claw.

Walker’s son-in-law took the bone to specialists at London’s Natural History Museum, where they ascertained that it was part of some unidentified dino predator. An eager team then descended on Walker’s pit, which yielded several new bones, including vertebrae, limb elements, and a slender snout.

2. Baryonyx’s Name Means “Heavy Claw.”

Thesupermat, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Like many carnivorous dinosaurs, Baryonyx had three visible claws on each hand. The claws of one pair, however, measured around 13 inches long apiece—large enough to visibly dwarf the others.   

3. This Was the First Fish-Eating Dino Ever Found.

Arguably the coolest thing about Walker’s Baryonyx is its last meal, a feast that included a prehistoric fish called Lepidotes.

4. … But Baryonyx Clearly Didn’t Eat Sushi 24/7.

Nobu Tamura, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

Chunks of Iguanodon—a dinosaurian herbivore—were also found in the dino's stomach. We’ll never know if the Baryonyx killed this animal or scavenged its corpse—and because most modern carnivores are pretty opportunistic, either scenario is possible.

5. Its Jaws Could Take a Lot of Stress.

A digital test run in 2013 concluded that Baryonyx’s snout was better at holding up against bending or twisting than those of some present-day crocodilians known as gharials.

6. Baryonyx’s Relatives Have Been Unearthed on Five Different Continents.

Sail-backed Spinosaurus prowled northern Africa and the amusingly-named Irritator challengeri wandered around Brazil. Asia and Australia are also home to similar critters.  

7. Baryonyx Might Absorb a Close Relative.

AStrangerintheAlps, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Is Niger’s Suchomimus tenerensis just a really big species of Baryonyx? These days, most experts don’t think so, but the question has been debated in academic circles. Suchomimus comes with a modest sail on its back, something Baryonyx lacks. Also, there are some small differences in the skull. Still, the former dino still might end up getting rebranded “Baryonyx tenerensis” someday, going the way of “Brontosaurus.”

8. It’s Now Known to Have Lived in Spain.

A partial rib and hand from this country were attributed to Baryonyx in the late ‘90s.

9. We Might Have Known About Baryonyx Before it Was Officially Discovered.

Ripton Scott, Wikimedia Commons// CC BY-SA 2.0

In keeping with its love of fish, Baryonyx had very distinctive teeth designed for puncturing their slippery hides. Sometime in the 1820s, intriguingly-similar chompers started coming to light. These were hastily identified as crocodile teeth and given the name Suchosaurus.  Given what scientists now know, it’s possible that Suchosaurus and Baryonyx are truly one and the same.

10. Baryonyx Helped Change the Way We Look at the Larger and More Famous Spinosaurus.

Before Baryonyx came along, few meat-eating dinos were thought to have had narrow skulls. Accordingly, before 1983, specialists usually assumed that the noggin of Spinosaurus aegypticus (an animal which rivaled T. rex in size) was boxy & rounded. After all, though a Spinosaurus lower jaw bone had been excavated in 1915, nobody knew what the rest of its cranium looked like.

But Baryonyx’s unveiling shattered our preconceptions. This critter bore some close anatomical parallels with what little Spinosaurus material the scientific community had at its disposal. Therefore, scientists finally realized that, even without its massive finback sail, Spinosaurus was a whole lot weirder than your typical dino. And it’s been getting weirder ever since.