A new species of small herbivorous dinosaur, distinct from those found in Asia and North America, has been discovered on the Isle of Wight in southern England. This discovery was made through a collaboration led by the University of Bath, along with the University of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight Dinosaur Museum in Sandown, and it has been published in Cretaceous Research.
The new species, Vectidromeus insularis, is the second member of the hypsilophodontid family to be found on the island, suggesting that Europe had its own family of small herbivorous dinosaurs separate from those in Asia and North America. Hypsilophodontids were a group of agile, bipedal herbivores that lived approximately 125 million years ago. These animals coexisted with early tyrannosaurs, spinosaurs, and iguanodonts.
The newly discovered fossil represents a chicken-sized animal, but it was a juvenile and could have grown much larger. Vectidromeus is a close relative of Hypsilophodon foxii, a dinosaur originally described during the Victorian era and one of the first dinosaurs for which relatively complete remains were found.
Small and slender, with hind limbs resembling those of a bird, Hypsilophodon was used by the scientist Thomas Henry Huxley as evidence of the relationship between birds and dinosaurs. Hypsilophodon is also native to the Isle of Wight but was found higher up in the rock layers, possibly two or three million years younger than Vectidromeus. Vectidromeus differs in the details of its hip bones, suggesting that it is a closely related but distinct species.