History of African Dinosaurs
Africa has a rich dinosaurs’ fossil record, but it is patchy and incomplete. That incompleteness has meant that the course of dinosaur evolution in Africa has largely remained a mystery. But in the Egyptian Sahara Desert, scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that helps fill in those gaps. The discovery has been said that it could be could be the missing piece to the puzzle of African dinosaur evolution. The newfound species offers a rare glimpse into the final chapter of the age of dinosaurs in Africa.
Paleontologists have named the creature Mansourasaurus. The Mansourasaurus was a Titanosaur, a subgroup of the long-necked plant-eating sauropods that roamed the Cretaceous. It walked on four trunk-like legs, and had a long sweeping tail. It was roughly the size of a bus, and it weighed about as much as an African elephant. While precious little is known about the dinosaur’s habits, its size and body composition are quite familiar. It was however well equipped for picking leaves and other flora and, like its peers, had very little interest in meat.
Was Africa an isolated continent?
When dinosaurs first emerged, they populated a single land mass made up of connected continents. But as those continents began to shift and break apart, many terrestrial dinosaurs became separated by vast oceans. Some palaeontologists theorised that, like modern-day Australia, Cretaceous Africa was essentially an island continent filled with unique species. Other experts suggested the African land mass still had ties to its neighbours.
New research published in Nature Ecology and Evolution shows that Cretaceous-era dinosaurs living in Africa and Europe weren’t completely cut off from each other, as is typically assumed. That was the time when the Earth’s supercontinent Pangaea split apart, drifting into the continents we see today. The fossilized remains of Mansourasaurus, found in Egypt’s Western Desert, suggests dinosaurs living in Africa and Europe weren’t as isolated as previously thought. This is due to the Mansourasaurus’ similarity to other sauropod dinosaurs from around the same time, including many skeletal features that match up with creatures found in Europe. They reveal that dinosaurs in Africa didn’t exist in a vacuum.The discovery is answering a long-standing mystery about dinosaur evolution at a time when Earth’s continents began drifting further and further apart.
The remarkable similarity of this newly discovered African species to sauropods found in both Europe and Asia suggests that creatures co-mingled much later than expected.