Staff at the Natural History Museum (NHM), discovered four new dinosaurs, including the “horned Crocodile-faced Hell Heron”, among over 550 animal and plant species.  

This museum presents an annual overview of new species, which includes invertebrates that are small enough to swim in the oceans and predators that roamed land millions of year ago. 

By far the biggest and most fearsome new species to have been described this year are a pair of giant carnivorous dinosaurs known as spinosaurs, discovered from remains on the Isle of Wight.

These predators are known as the riverbank hunter and the horned-crocodile faced hell heron, after the swampy environments they used to live and hunt. 

Due to its low horns, bumps, and ‘heron-like hunting style, the more fierce of the two was the ‘horned, crocodile faced hell heron’. 

They are believed to have walked the land now known as the Isle of Wight around 130 million years ago. 

Artist's depiction of the two new species of spinosaurid dinosaurs discovered on the Isle of Wight, named ¿Hell heron¿ (foreground) and ¿Riverbank hunter¿

Artist’s depiction of the two new species of spinosaurid dinosaurs discovered on the Isle of Wight, named ‘Hell heron’ (foreground) and ‘Riverbank hunter’

Silhouettes showing the bones discovered. Ceratosuchops inferodios (hell heron) in the foreground, Riparovenator milnerae (riverbank hunter) in the background

The bones were discovered in Silhouettes. Ceratosuchops indios (hell heron), in the foreground. Riparovenator millerae (riverbank hunters) in background

Remains from Rhomaleopakhus turpanensis, a 'chunky' sauropod which had an unusually large funny bone, uncovered in China

Rests of Rhomaleopakhus. turpanensis, the ‘chunky,’ sauropod that had an uncommonly large funny bone were found in China


Ceratosuchops inferodiosKnown by the name “hell heron” and is found on The Isle of Wight

Milnerae Riparovenator: Known as ‘riverbank hunter’, also from the Isle of Wight 

Brighstoneus simmondsi: Another iguanodontian from the Isle of Wight, with an unusual snout

Spicomellus afer: This is the earliest ankylosaur, and it was also first discovered in Africa 

Pendraig milnerae: From the UK, this is the earliest carnivorous dinosaur.

Rhomaleopakhus TurpanensisThe China sauropod is a big, chunky one

The museum’s total new species for discovered by staff this year – 552 – is despite international travel to field sites or other museum collections having remained largely off limits due to Covid-19 restrictions.    

Dr Susannah Maidment from NHM is a senior researcher on paleobiology who has helped to describe these discoveries.

“We’ve been aware of the UK’s dinosaur heritage since over 150 years. But, we are now able to discover a secret diversity of British dinos by using new methods and new data. 

“These pieces are part of a huge palaeobiological puzzle that helps us understand past environments and change over time. 

Riverbank hunter was a huge carnivorous dinosaur that probably walked upright. Hell heron was also a riverbank hunter. They were crocodile-like in their jaws, which indicate that they ate a lot of fish as well as other dinosaurs.  

The two spinosaurs – already detailed in a paper in Scientific Reports earlier this year – were just two of six new dinosaurs to have been described by NHM staff in 2021.

There were four total of them, two of which came from the UK and one from China. The other was found in the Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco.  

Rhomaleopakhus turpanensis was a Chinese ‘chunky sauropod’ with a large funny bone.

Spicomellus ankylosaur, a Moroccan ankylosaur, was also an ankylosaur. He had an odd collection of spikes on his rib. 

Ankylosaurs was a group of armoured dinosaurs that were related to the Stegosaurs. They were found throughout the Cretaceous period, approximately 145-66 million years ago. 

A bizarre armoured spike fossil, found in Morocco, belonged to a new species of dinosaur that was 'unlike anything else in the animal kingdom,' NHM researchers found

The bizarre fossil of an armoured spike, discovered in Morocco by NHM researchers, was part of a new dinosaur species.

Artistic reconstruction of Brighstoneous simmondsi, a new igaunodontian with an unusual snout found on the Isle of Wight, UK

An artistic reconstruction of Brighstoneous Simmondsi. A new igaunodontian who has an unusual snout and was discovered on the Isle of Wight.

Artistic reconstruction of the 'small-bodied' Welsh theropod Pendraig milnerae, the earliest carnivorous dinosaur from the UK

The artistic reconstruction of Pendraig, a small-bodied Welsh theropod and the UK’s first carnivorous dinosaur.

NHM made a number of other fossil finds this year, including algae, arachnids trapped in amber and fossil bryozoans – microscopic aquatic invertebrates that live in colonies, also known as moss animals.

The museum also found two ancient mammals – Megalomys camerhogne, which belonged to a group of rodents which once lived scattered across the Caribbean, and Borealestes cullinensis, a ‘Jurassic mouse’ from the Isle of Skye, Scotland that would have scurried around the feet of dinosaurs 166 million years ago.  

Many of the new species described this year have been crustaceans, in particular 291 species of copepods – These shrimp-like, small creatures are often found close to water. 

Although they look small and simple, they play a major role in zooplankton, the NHM says.  

Geoff Boxshall is a researcher at the NHM’s department of life sciences. He said that copepods can live in almost every major animal species. 

“I’ve been researching parasitic copepods in fishes and other marine invertebrate host species.

Museum scientists also have described 52 wasp species, 13 moths as well as seven crabs and six flies. They also found five amphipods, nine flies and 90 beetles. 

Wallace’s sphinx is one of these moths. According to the NHM (used for getting the bottom of nectar tubes), it has the longest tongue.

Charles Darwin was the father of the theory evolution and predicted the existence of the moth 40 years prior to its first recorded appearance in the wild. 

There were a pair in India of metallic, glitteringly green beetles, and a larger, monochromatic, beetle from India with large jaws. Caccothryptus larryi was a tiny marsh-loving beetle that Larry, the cat from 10 Downing Street, named after. 

A beautiful green Donaciolagria regia beetle from India. This is the female of the species which is a different colour from the male (below)

Beautiful green Donaciolagria Regia beetle, India. The female is of a species that is different from the male. (below).

Donaciolagria regia female. Note the striking differences in colour between the male and female of this particular Indian species

Donaciolagria regia female. You will be able to see the marked differences between males and females of this Indian species.

Caccothryptus larryi - a minute marsh-loving beetle from India named after Larry the cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office

Caccothryptus Larryi is a tiny marsh-loving insect from India, named for Larry the Cat Chief Mouser to Cabinet Office 

There were 10 additional species of amphibians or reptiles discovered, which included five snakes. A 185-year old painting was used to describe one of the new species of snake, Joseph’s racer. 

Rhabdophis bindi – a brand new species of Indian and Bangladeshi snake, lives in tropical evergreen rainforest. 

According to a paper describing Rhabdophis bindi, the species has a red spot at the nape and neck of Rhabdophis bindi. This is’reminiscent’ of Indian women’s foreheads.  

A fan-throated and an Indian gecko were also described as new species. One new species is also a Vietnamese species of frog. 

A new caecilian species has been discovered, an amphibian that looks like a snake and lives underground. 

Rhabdophis bindi - a new species of snake from India and Bangladesh that lives in tropical evergreen forest. Note the red spot on the nape of the neck, 'reminiscent of the red beauty spot adorning the foreheads of Indian women', according to a paper describing the species

Rhabdophis Bindi is an Indian-Bangladesh new species that lives in the tropical evergreen forest. A paper that describes the species notes the presence of a red spot near the neck. It is similar to the Indian beauty spot found on women’s foreheads.

Pictured here is impatiens versicolor - one of five new species of jewelweeds, or touch-me-nots, described from eastern Africa

Here is Impatiens versicolor, one of five species of new jewelweeds or touch-me nots that have been described from Eastern Africa.

NHM has also discovered five new species from Eastern Africa. They are also known as touch-me nots and jewelweeds. Their delicate pink flowers can be compared to the white of some other species. 

These red flowers do not get pollinated by butterflies. Instead, they are visited daily by birds that find it easier to distinguish the red colour from green leaves.    

NHM staff also participated in the classification and classification of a piece space rock which fell to Earth during a flashing fireball on February 1, 2015. 

Before it reached a stop abruptly on Winchcombe, a drive in Gloucestershire, the space rock shattered through the atmosphere. 

Winchcombe meteorite. A piece of the meteorite which fell to earth during lockdown in February, the first observed meteorite fall to have been recovered in the UK in 30 years

Winchcombe meteorite. The first known meteorite drop to the UK since 30 years, this piece of the meteorite fell during lockdown on February.

Many people saw the fireball in the night sky. Researchers were quick to locate it and recovered over 600 grams. 

It is now officially known as the Winchcombe Meteorite. This meteorite is currently one of 603 that have been approved to be carbonaceous chondrites. 

Each meteorite official becomes its type specimen. It is somewhat analogous with being a brand new species. 

Dr Helena Bates from the Museum, who worked with the recovery of the Winchcombe Meteorite, stated that ‘The Winchcombe Meteorite is one of the most important meteorite falls to have been recovered in the UK for over 30 years’. 

The asteroid thought to be the source of ‘Winchcombe’ is thought not have changed much since the dawn of the solar systems 4.6 billion years ago.  

Tabwecala robinsoni. This rather striking new moth from Vanuatu is one of 14 new species of moths and butterflies described this year

Tabwecala robinsoni. One of the 14 newly described moth and butterfly species this year is a striking moth that hails from Vanuatu.

Xanthopan praedicta. This species of moth was predicted to exist by Darwin and Wallace, and was finally recognised as its own species this year

Xanthopan praedicta. Darwin and Wallace predicted that this moth species would exist, but it was only recently recognized as its own species.

Neanthes goodayi. A new species polychaete worm found to live within the polymetallic nodules which are being eyed up for deep sea mining

Neanthes greatayi. New species of polychaete Worm discovered to be living in the polymetallic Nodules, which are being investigated for deep sea mining

Eurythenes atacamensis. One of two colour morphs of giant isopod from the Atacama Trench off the coasts of Peru and Chile

Eurythenes atamensis. One of the two color morphs for giant isopods found in the Atacama Trench near the Chilean coasts.

Crinitostella laguardai. It is a deep-sea wood-dwelling seastar from the Gulf of Mexico which feeds on wood at the bottom of the ocean

Crinitostella laguardai. This seastar, which lives in deep water and eats wood from the bottom of oceans, is an aquatic wood-dwelling seastar.