Archaeologists discovered fossils belonging to a long-necked dinosaur which could be the missing link in African dinosaur evolution.
Scientists dug up the remains of a herbivorous dinosaur called Mansourasaurus shahinae, a gigantic creature thought to have weighed almost as much as a bull African elephant and was 33 feet long. The dinosaurs belonged to the titanosaur group, which included the Earth’s largest-ever land animals.
„Mansourasaurus though a big animal by today’s standards, was a pipsqueak compared to some other titanosaurs,” said paleontologist Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The giant reptile is believed to have roamed Africa during the Late Cretaceous period, between 66 and 100 million years ago. Not much is known about this period when it comes to the African dinosaur.
During the Late Cretaceous, many scientists thought that Africa had already separated from other landmasses and became an „isolated continent”. The study detailing the discovery claims that the Mansourasaurus shahinae is very similar to other sauropods found in both Asia and Europe. This link would suggest that the species interacted with each other much later than previously believed.
The remains included fragments of the dinosaur’s skull, lower jaw, vertebrae, ribs, shoulder, forelimb and back foot. All these remains were enough to label the discovery as the most complete dinosaur skeleton yet discovered in Africa from the late Cretaceous. All these parts allowed scientists to analyze the dinosaur’s anatomy, and to compare it to other dinosaurs that inhabited Europe and Asia during that time.
The discovery throws a wrench into the long-standing theory that Africa was a land full of mysterious dinosaurs that were exclusive to the continent. This theory gained weight once scientists found a 66-million-year-old Chenanisaurus barbaricus. It’s unique features prompted researchers to conclude that African dinosaurs must have been isolated from the rest of the world.
The study was published in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution.
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