Connoisseurs of Japanese food, or those who have dined on the East Coast, will know the delights of raw fish. Baryonyx, the second-largest of the beasts in Dinosaur Encounter, knew what we and other predators its size did not: raw fish is delicious.
Sloshing through the swamps and waterways of what is now Europe, Baryonyx must have been quite a sight: almost as big as a T-rex, but with crocodile-like jaws, lined with fine teeth, instead of the superpredator’s mighty flesh tearers, as befitting its more delicate diet. It was the first dinosaur discovered to favour fish over other meats.
Baryonyx’s long arms, both muscular and dextrous, would have been the envy of other theropods. This suggests that it spent a lot of time on all fours, which would have meant a lot of push-ups. No jokes about tiny arms for this dinosaur! With its claws it would have snatched at fish, or impaled them. It may even have swiped them from the water like a bear.
You’ve got to have a varied diet, though. Imagine living on nothing but fish your whole life! We know that Baryonyx liked to mix small creatures into its diet – when a skeleton contains within it another, smaller skeleton, it’s something of a fossilised smoking gun. It’s only a small step from grabbing fish to grabbing lizards and early mammals.
Baryonyx is the only one of the Dinosaur Encounter exhibits not to witness the asteroid impact, 65 million years ago, that brought about the end of the age of the dinosaurs. It had shuffled off the evolutionary stage about 35 million years prior to that. With no cosmic event to blame, what caused its extinction? Probably some of the same things happening to some species today: incremental changes in its food supply and environment that are too quick to adapt to.
The Baryonyx is sponsored by Copthorne Hotel, Palmerston North. See it up close at Dinosaur Encounter, supported by City Partner Fly Palmy, on display at Te Manawa until 26 February.
Rob Mildon was there to witness the asteroid impact. He reports that it was quite something