School bus-sized dinosaur species found in Egyptian Sahara

New African dino sheds light on Pangaea break-up

31 January, 2018

African fossils from the final days of dinosaurs, also known as the Late Cretaceous period 100 to 66 million years ago, are hard to come by, leaving a hole in evolutionary history. Many new dinosaurs emerged-in great numbers.

Student Mai El-Amir, left, and professor Hesham Sallam of Mansoura University prepare to glue bones of the new titanosaurian dinosaur Mansourasaurus shahinae in the field.

The bones were discovered in the Sahara Desert in Egypt, by a dig team from Mansoura University. The specimen answers questions like "What animals were living there?" and "To what other species were these animals most closely related?" And yet, there are places in the world where their remains from certain time periods are not found, making it hard for scientists to put together the puzzle of Earth's geological and geographic history. During this period, the continent had split apart into a different land mass which resembles the configuration we see today.

"That's not because the Southern Hemisphere continents have fewer dinosaurs or less interesting dinosaurs", Lamanna said.

"Africa's last dinosaurs weren't completely isolated, contrary to what some have proposed in the past". For instance, if Africa still had land connections to Europe during the Cretaceous period, its animals would likely have similar anatomies to those on neighboring landmasses.

M. shahinae belongs to Titanosauria, a group of enormous sauropods - including Argentinosaurus, Dreadnoughtus andPatagotitan - that lived around the world during the Cretaceous period, the researchers said.

Mansourasaurus, be that as it may, was moderately little for a titanosaur, and about the heaviness of an African bull elephant.

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During the excavation, the parts such as skull, neck, back vertebrae, lower jaw, forelimb, shoulder, ribs, back foot as well osteoderms of the animal were recovered. Unlike the exposed, rocky regions that make dinosaur hunting easy in the U.S. Rocky Mountains, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia or the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile, much of the land in Egypt is covered with lush vegetation, making it hard for paleontologists to know where to dig ( bones poking out of the ground). MUVP student Iman El-Dawoudi played a particularly important role in the analysis of the new titanosaur, making numerous observations on its skeleton. Paleontologists from Egypt's Mansoura University were having an expedition at that time. The Mansourasaurus fossils have been moved to the fossil collection at the university, about 75 miles north of Cairo, and will stay there to be studied.

A new species of dinosaur found in the Egyptian desert is shedding light on Africa's missing history of dinosaurs.

Scientists hailed the "incredible discovery", with Matt Lamanna, one of the study's authors, calling it "the Holy Grail". "It resembles finding an edge piece that you use to help make sense of what the photo is, that you can work from".

Rather than being a piece of a jigsaw filling in the gaps in dinosaur history, it is more like "a corner piece", said Dr Gorscak.

Dr Sallam added: "What's exciting is that our team is just getting started".

Even almost four years after the discovery, the giddiness in Lamanna's voice is evident as he talked about the importance of the initial pictures. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. New Egyptian sauropod reveals Late Cretaceous dinosaur dispersal between Europe and Africa. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0455-5.

Journal Reference: Hesham M. Sallam et al.

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