VALENCIA, Spain — Scientists say a dinosaur as big as a school bus that had killer-claws likened to the giant shears of “Edward Scissorhands” once roamed the planet. The new species sported five razor-sharp “fingers” similar to a Swiss Army knife. A particularly deadly spike protruded from the end of its thumb.
The stiletto-style weapon came in “handy” when fighting off predators, and may have even been used to slice fruit, experts believe.
The dinosaur, named Portellsaurus sosbaynati, was a member of a specialist group of iguanodons called “styracosternans.” It also had huge nostrils. A combination of a good sense of smell and long claws would have made it an excellent forager. A long, heavy tail was held high in the air for balance.
Portellsaurus roamed Spain around 130 million years ago. It was ten feet tall, weighed more than four tons, and reached up to 26 feet in length. The beast was identified from a jawbone dug up at a prehistoric animal graveyard in Portell in the region of Catalonia. Portellsaurus is a cousin of herbivore dinosaurs whose remains have been found in modern-day China and Niger.
“It was a large animal with a spiked thumb and enlarged nostrils. It ate a plant-based diet,” says study lead author Dr. Andres Santos-Cubedo of Jaume I University, in a statement to South West News Service.
Portellsaurus sheds fresh light on the evolution of the ornithopods. They started out as small, bipedal running grazers, and grew in size and numbers. Eventually, they became one of the most successful groups of herbivores in the Cretaceous world, dominating the landscape of North America, Europe, and Asia.
“Portellsaurus sosbaynati is the oldest known dinosaur species in the province of Castello — about 130 million years old. It’s closely related to the Chinese dinosaur Bolong and the African dinosaur Ouranosaurus,” says Dr. Santos-Cubedo.
Styracosterns were “bird-hipped” dinosaurs called ornithopods, a prehistoric equivalent of today’s cattle and deer. Their horny beaks were used to crop vegetation, which they then ground using molar-like cheek teeth. They flourished from 230 million to 66 million years ago and were among the most successful animals to ever walk the planet.
“A new styracosternan ornithopod genus and species is described based on the right dentary of a single specimen from the Mirambell Formation at the locality of Portell,” the authors write in their paper. “It indicates the Iberian Peninsula was home to a highly diverse assemblage of medium-to-large bodied styracosternan hadrosauriforms during the Early Cretaceous.”
Different species of iguanodons flourished in both Europe and North America. They were able to walk on both two legs or all four. “Edward Scissorhands,” played by Johnny Depp in the 1990 movie, was an artificial humanoid with scissor blades instead of hands.
The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.