A huge meat-eating dinosaur has just been identified in Egypt
A huge carnivorous dinosaur has just been identified in the Egyptian Sahara desert, announced a team of Egyptian-American researchers. The dinosaur was a theropod, which was a group of dinosaurs characterized by hollow bones and three-toed limbs, and was discovered from a famous fossil site.
The species has not yet been named. The fossil provides the earliest known record of the abelisaurid theropod group from a mid-Cretaceous rock unit known as the Bahariya Formation.
What are abelisaurids?
Abelisaurids are ceratosaurian theropod dinosaurs that flourished during the Cretaceous Period on the ancient southern supercontinent of Gondwana and were bipedal carnivores, meaning they traveled on two appendages. Ceratosaurus was the group of theropods that shared a more common ancestor with Ceratosaurus, a carnivorous theropod from the Late Jurassic, than with birds. Abelisaurids were notably represented by the horned and demonic Patagonian form Carnotaurus from Jurassic World and Prehistoric Planet. Patagonia is the southernmost region of South America, in Argentina and Chile, stretching from the Andes to the Atlantic. Carnotaurus is a theropod dinosaur that lived in South America during the Late Cretaceous, between 71 and 69 million years ago.
The Cretaceous period began 145 million years ago and ended 66 million years ago. The Cretaceous period was also the last period of the Age of Dinosaurs.
Fossil remains of abelisaurids are found on the modern continents of Africa and South America, as well as the Indian subcontinent and the island of Madagascar.
Where is the Bahariya formation located?
The Bahariya Formation, from which the carnivorous dinosaur fossil was discovered, is exposed in the Bahariya Oasis of the Western Desert of Egypt and is around 98 million years old.
The study describing the discovery of dinosaurs from the Bahariya Formation was recently published in the journal Royal Society for Open Science.
The Bahariya Formation yielded the original specimens of a host of remarkable dinosaurs in the early 20th century. These dinosaurs included the colossal sail-backed fish-eating Spinosaurus. The specimens were destroyed during the Second World War. Fossils of abelisaurid dinosaurs had been found in Europe and many continents in today’s Southern Hemisphere, but never before in the Bahariya Formation.
The fossil is a well-preserved vertebra from the base of the dinosaur’s neck
Led by researchers at Ohio University, the study described the fossil as a well-preserved vertebra from the base of a dinosaur’s neck, discovered as part of an expedition from the Center for Vertebrate Paleontology ( MUV) from the University of Mansoura in 2016 in the oasis of Bahariya. According to the study, the vertebra belongs to an abelisaurid, a kind of bulldog-headed, small-toothed, small-armed theropod dinosaur that is estimated to have been about six meters or 20 feet long. Abelisaurids were among the most diverse and geographically widespread large predatory dinosaurs in the southern landmasses during the Cretaceous period.
A newly identified abelisaurid roamed the Earth 98 million years ago
The study reports that the new abelisaurid fossil, along with Spinosaurus and two other giant theropods, Carcharodontosaurus and Bahariasaurus, adds yet another species to the cadre of large predatory dinosaurs that roamed the region of Earth that is now the Egyptian Sahara, it 98 million years ago. .
Bahariya Oasis was one of the most terrifying places on earth
In a statement released by Ohio University, Belal Salem, the paper’s lead author, said that during the mid-Cretaceous, Bahariya Oasis would have been one of the most terrifying places in the planet. He added that how all of these huge predators managed to co-exist remains a mystery, though it’s probably related to the fact that they ate different things, that they adapted to hunt different prey.
The study authors noted in the study that the new vertebra has implications for the biodiversity of Cretaceous dinosaurs in Egypt and across the northern region of Africa.
What does the Bahariya Formation fossil reveal?
The Bahariya Formation fossil is the oldest known Abelisauridae fossil from northeast Africa, and shows that by the mid-Cretaceous these carnivorous dinosaurs ranged over much of the northern part of the continent , east to west, from present-day Egypt to Morocco, to as far south as Niger and potentially beyond. The fact that Spinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus are also known from Niger and Morocco, and that a close relative of Bahariasaurus has also been found in Morocco, suggests that this large to gigantic theropod fauna coexisted in much of North Africa. at that time.
The Abelisaurid fossil is practically similar to Carnotaurus, a well-known Abelisaur
The question arises as to how the discovery of a single cervical vertebra can lead researchers to conclude that the fossil belongs to a member of the Abelisauridae, a kind of carnivorous dinosaur that has never been found in the Bahariya Formation before. According to the researchers, the answer is remarkably simple. The fossil is virtually identical to the same fossil in other better known abelisaurids such as Carnotaurus from Argentina and Majungasaurus from Madagascar. Patrick O’Connor, co-author of the paper, said he had examined abelisaur skeletons from Patagonia to Madagascar, and his first glimpse of the specimen from photos left no doubt as to its identity. He said the neck bones of abelisaurids are so distinctive.
Why is Bahariya Oasis famous?
Bahariya Oasis is famous in paleontological circles for providing the type specimens of several extraordinary dinosaurs in the early 20th century, including Spinosaurus. Type specimens are the original fossils, discovered for the first time and bearing their name. However, all of the Bahariya dinosaur fossils that were collected before World War II were destroyed in an Allied bombing of Munich in 1944.
Matt Lamanna, another co-author of the paper, said the Bahariya Oasis has gained near-legendary status among paleontologists for producing the earliest known fossils of some of the world’s most amazing dinosaurs. He had helped make the first dinosaur discoveries in the Bahariya oasis since the infamous 1944 air raid.
Lamanna added that for more than three-quarters of a century, these fossils have only existed as pictures in old books. Discoveries made during recent expeditions led by researchers from the American University in Cairo (AUC) and MUVP are helping to restore the paleontological heritage of this classic site. The abelisaurid vertebra from the Bahariya Formation is one such find. In the future, researchers plan to unveil a slew of additional fossils recovered on these expeditions.
Will other dinosaur fossils be discovered?
Sanaa El-Sayed, one of the authors of the paper, explained that the bone is just the first of many important new dinosaur fossils from the Bahariya Oasis. El-Sayed had co-led the 2016 expedition that collected the abelisaurid vertebra.
According to Ohio University, the Bahariya Formation promises to shed light on mid-Cretaceous African dinosaurs and the extinct ecosystems they once lived in. The Bahariya Formation appears to preserve skeletons of dinosaurs and other land animals with relatively high frequency. This is different from more explored rocks of the same age in Morocco which tend to produce isolated bones.
The study indicates that the more bones preserved in the skeleton of a given skeletal fossil species, the more paleontologists can generally learn about it. The tendency of Bahariya Oasis to produce associated partial skeletons suggests that much remains to be learned from this historical locality.
Hesham Sallam, another co-author of the paper, said that when it comes to Egyptian dinosaurs, researchers have only scratched the surface.