By: April Carson
In the Western Desert of Egypt, paleontologists have discovered a well-preserved cervical vertebrae of a medium-sized abelisaurid ceratosaur. It is the oldest concrete evidence of abelisaurids from Egypt and northeastern Africa in general, dating back to 34 million years ago.
This new find significantly expands the geographic and temporal range of these unusual theropod dinosaurs. Abelisaurids are a group of predators that were closely related to the better-known Tyrannosaurus rex. They first appeared in South America about 100 million years ago and later spread to other continents, including Africa.
Abelisaurids were one of the most varied and widespread medium- to big-bodied theropod dinosaurs during the Cretaceous period in southern continents. They were characterized by their short, stocky build, large heads with small brains, and long necks. Most abelisaurids had large horns or crests on their skulls, although the function of these features is still debated.
They inhabited meat-eating niches in South America, continental Africa, Indo-Madagascar, Europe and perhaps Australia.
Despite this, only highly fractured evidence of abelisaurids has been discovered from Egypt and northeastern Africa in general, despite the rich and continuously growing non-avian dinosaur record of that area.
The dinosaur species the specimen was from lived approximately 98 million years ago (Upper Cretaceous period).
It was likely a bulldog-like creature with tiny teeth, small arms, and a 6 m (20 foot) length.
“The Bahariya Oasis would have been one of the most frightening locations on Earth during the mid-Cretaceous,” said Belal Salem, a graduate student at Ohio University.
“How these enormous predators were able to coexist is a mystery, but it's most likely due to their having eaten different foods and having evolved to hunt different animals.”
The discovery of the new abelisaurid vertebra has significant implications for dinosaur diversity in Egypt and the whole northern half of Africa.
It is the earliest-known abelisaurid specimen from northeastern Africa, dating back to the mid-Cretaceous. It also shows that these dinosaurs ranged across much of northern Africa during the mid-Cretaceous, east to west from Egypt to Morocco, as far south as Niger and potentially beyond.
This new discovery helps to close the gap in our understanding of how these animals dispersed across the planet.
“The finding of an abelisaurid vertebra in Egypt is hugely important, as it is currently the only known record of this group from northern Africa,” says Dr Eid. “It represents a significant extension of their range, and shows that they were present in this part of the world during the mid-Cretaceous period.”
The researchers say that further excavations are needed to find more fossils from this new species of dinosaur, which will help to shed light on its ecology and behavior.
“The new vertebra adds to the already extremely varied big-bodied non-avian dinosaur record of the Bahariya Formation, a unit that also includes representatives of Spinosauridae, Carcharodontosauridae, and Bahariasauridae. It also underpins the monumental importance of this site for our understanding of dinosaur evolution in North Africa during the middle Cretaceous.”
“The Trans-Saharan Seaway did not appear to be a significant barrier to big-bodied theropod dispersal during the Cenomanian, because this abelisaurid/spinosaurid/carcharodontosaurid/bahariasaurid faunal assemblage covered most or all of northern Africa throughout this period, suggesting that it did not represent a major barrier.”
“The Bahariya Formation has the potential to enhance our understanding of this northern African Cenomanian fauna due to its high degree of phylogenetic informative associated partial skeletons.”
This new discovery is just one example of how the Trans-Saharan Seaway did not seem to be a significant barrier to big-bodied theropod dispersal during the Cenomanian. The fact that this faunal assemblage covered most or all of northern Africa throughout this period suggests that it did not represent a major barrier.
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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