School bus-sized dinosaur fossil found in Sahara desert
Scientists have unearthed the fossils of a long-necked, four-legged dinosaur the size of a school bus that lived around 80 million years ago in an oasis in the Sahara Desert in Egypt, a find that highlights a mysterious period in the history of dinosaurs in Africa.
Researchers said on Monday that the herbivorous Cretaceous dinosaur, named Mansourasaurus shahinae, was nearly 10 meters long and weighed 5.5 tons (5,500 kg) and was a member of a group called titanosaurs which included the largest land animals. of the planet. . Like many titanosaurs, Mansourasaurus had bony plates called osteoderms embedded in its skin.
Mansourasaurus, which lived near the shore of the ancient ocean that predated the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the very few known dinosaurs from the last 15 million years of the Mesozoic Era, or Age of Dinosaurs, in mainland Africa. Madagascar had a distinct geological history.
Its remains, found in the Dakhla oasis in central Egypt, are the most complete of all land vertebrates in mainland Africa for an even longer period, some 30 million years before the mass extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, said paleontologist Hesham Sallam of Egypt. Mansoura University, who led the study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Scientists recovered parts of his skull, lower jaw, neck and back vertebrae, ribs, shoulder and forelimbs, hind foot, and osteoderms. Much of Africa is covered with grasslands, savannas and rainforests that mask the underlying rocks where fossils can be found, said postdoctoral researcher Eric Gorscak of the Field Museum in Chicago, who was previously at the ‘Ohio University.
Although as massive as an African elephant bull, the Mansourasaurus was modestly sized next to titanosaur cousins such as the Argentinosaurus, the Dreadnoughtus and the South American Patagotitan and the African Paralititan, some exceeding 30 meters in length.
“The Mansourasaurus, although a large animal by today’s standards, was a small squeal compared to other titanosaurs,” said paleontologist Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.
Researchers determined that Mansourasaurus was more closely related to European and Asian titanosaurs than to those elsewhere in Africa and other landmasses in the southern hemisphere, including South America, formerly united in a super -continent called Gondwana.
“This, in turn, demonstrates for the first time that at least some dinosaurs could move between North Africa and southern Europe at the end of the Mesozoic, and goes against long-held assumptions. date who argued that African dinosaur fauns were isolated from others, during this time, ”Lamanna said.