Baryonyx is a genus of theropod dinosaur which lived in the Barremian stage of the Early Cretaceous Period, about 130–125 million years ago. The first skeleton was discovered in 1983 in the Weald Clay Formation of Surrey, England, and became the holotype specimen of B. walkeri, named by palaeontologists Alan J. Charig and Angela C. Milner in 1986. The generic name, Baryonyx, means “heavy claw” and alludes to the animal’s very large claw on the first finger; the specific name, walkeri, refers to its discoverer, amateur fossil collector William J. Walker. The holotype specimen is one of the most complete theropod skeletons from the UK (and remains the most complete spinosaurid), and its discovery attracted media attention. Specimens later discovered in other parts of the United Kingdom and Iberia have also been assigned to the genus.
The holotype specimen, which may not have been fully grown, was estimated to have been between 7.5 and 10 m (25 and 33 ft) long and to have weighed between 1.2 and 1.7 t (1.3 and 1.9 short tons). Baryonyx had a long, low, and narrow snout, which has been compared to that of a gharial. The tip of the snout expanded to the sides in the shape of a rosette. Behind this, the upper jaw had a notch which fitted into the lower jaw (which curved upwards in the same area). It had a triangular crest on the top of its nasal bones. Baryonyx had a large number of finely serrated, conical teeth, with the largest teeth in front. The neck formed an S-shape, and the neural spines of its dorsal vertebrae increased in height from front to back. One elongated neural spine indicates it may have had a hump or ridge along the centre of its back. It had robust forelimbs, with the eponymous first-finger claw measuring about 31 cm (12 in) long.
Now recognised as a member of the family Spinosauridae, Baryonyx’s affinities were obscure when it was discovered. Some researchers have suggested that Suchosaurus cultridens is a senior synonym (being an older name), and that Suchomimus tenerensis belongs in the same genus; subsequent authors have kept them separate. Baryonyx was the first theropod dinosaur demonstrated to have been piscivorous (fish-eating), as evidenced by fish scales in the stomach region of the holotype specimen. It may also have been an active predator of larger prey and a scavenger, since it also contained bones of a juvenile Iguanodon. The creature would have caught and processed its prey primarily with its forelimbs and large claws. Baryonyx may have had semiaquatic habits, and coexisted with other theropod, ornithopod, and sauropod dinosaurs, as well as pterosaurs, crocodiles, turtles and fishes, in a fluvial environment.
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