Baryonyx (Greek for "heavy claw"); pronounced bah-RYE-oh-nix
Riverbanks of Western Europe
Early Cretaceous (125 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 30 feet long and 2 tons
Large, curved claws on front legs; long, narrow skull
By piecing together the distinctive features of Baryonyx's anatomy--including its large front claws, long, narrow skull and well-muscled arms--paleontologists have come to the startling conclusion that this early Cretaceous theropod prowled riverbanks and lakebeds, spearing passing fish with its claws (much in the style of a modern bear). In fact, the remains of the prehistoric fish Lepidotes have been found in the stomach of one Baryonyx specimen. (See also 10 Facts About Baryonyx.)
Despite its fame, Baryonyx is a relatively recent addition to the dinosaur family. The remains of this genus (chief among them a giant, fossilized claw) weren't discovered until 1983, by an amateur fossil hunter in England. As is the case with many dinosaurs, it's unclear from the bones of Baryonyx just how large this dinosaur was: since the specimen may be of a juvenile, it's possible that Baryonyx grew to larger sizes than previously thought (by most current estimates, it seems to have measured about 25 to 30 feet from head to tail and weighed close to two tons).
Intriguingly, Baryonyx seems to have been most closely related to the "spinosaurid" dinosaurs of Africa and South America, including Spinosaurus, Irritator and Suchomimus. Since northern Africa is in close proximity to southern Europe, it's not inconceivable that the common ancestor of two or more of these dinosaurs made the cross-continent trip during the early Cretaceous period.