Life in Water

Not every scientist agreed with Ibrahim. So, with a grant from the National Geographic Society, Ibrahim returned to the spot again in search of more Spinosaurus fossils. The work was very difficult, but it became rewarding after the team discovered more pieces of a Spinosaurus tail.

What they found was striking. In other dinosaurs, the tail narrows to a point. In Spinosaurus, the tail is broad. It looks like a paddle. The tiny bumps that appear toward the tail’s end may have allowed the tail to move back and forth while swimming. Long, thin bones connect to the tail, not unlike the tailbones in a fish.

With the fossil evidence he had now, Ibrahim teamed up with more scientists. Could they help him with another experiment? This time, he wanted to know how this tail might have worked in
the water.

Spinosaurus had crocodile-like jaws with large, cone-shaped teeth to grip slippery fish.

Through digital modeling and a real model tested in water, the team made an important discovery. Spinosaurus’ tail delivers more than eight times the forward thrust in water than the tails of other dinosaurs on land. The test left Ibrahim even more certain that Spinosaurus spent most of its time in the water, not on land.

Fossil segments of Spinosaurus’ tail now indicate that its tail was broad and used as a paddle during swimming.

Scientists previously thought Spinosaurus’ tail was narrow
and pointed.

In this animation, a Spinosaurus uses its paddle-like tail to move through water.

Questions Remain

Ibrahim hasn’t finished his research yet. One of the other newly discovered fossils may hold another important clue. It is a bone from the dinosaur’s foot. With it, the team can now recreate the dinosaur’s whole foot. Ibrahim believes it was widely splayed and possibly webbed. Perfect for an aquatic dinosaur.

Ibrahim continues to dig to find answers to his Spinosaurus questions. For now, one thing appears clearthe more impossible the questions seem, the more determined Ibrahim is to find the answers.

Scientists attempt to create a life-size model of Spinosaurus, showcasing what is now known about its tail.

A View Around Spinosaurus

Drag the slider to turn this ​​​​​​​3D model of Spinosaurus.