A ‘Dinosaur’ connection that links North Africa to Europe and Asia

An artist's reconstruction of the new titanosaurian dinosaur Mansourasaurus shahinae. (Andrew McAfee/Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

A recent discovery of dinosaur fossil in the Sahara desert of Egypt, have revealed that Dinosaurs in North Africa were more closely related to dinosaurs in Europe and Asia than those in southern part of the continent.

The dinosaur was officially named on Monday  in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. It was named Mansourasaurus after the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology (MUVP) initiative, a wing at the Department of Geology at Mansoura University in Mansoura, Egypt, that oversaw the research under Dr Hesham Sallam.

The findings point out that at least some dinosaurs in Africa, right before dinosaurs went extinct, had close relatives on other continents, particularly Europe and Asia.

“Here we describe a new titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur, Mansourasaurus shahinae gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Quseir Formation of the Dakhla Oasis of the Egyptian Western Desert. Represented by an associated partial skeleton that includes cranial elements, Mansourasaurus is the most completely preserved land-living vertebrate from the post-Cenomanian Cretaceous (~94–66 million years ago) of the African continent,” reads the abstract of the paper.

Further, it says that Phylogenetic analyses demonstrates that Mansourasaurus is nested within a clade of penecontemporaneous titanosaurians from southern Europe and eastern Asia, thereby providing the first unambiguous evidence of the species that inhabited both Africa and Europe.

The close relationship of Mansourasaurus to coeval Eurasian titanosaurians indicates that terrestrial vertebrate dispersal occurred between Eurasia and northern Africa after the tectonic separation of the latter from South America ~100 million years ago. These findings counter hypotheses that dinosaur faunas of the African mainland were completely isolated during the post-Cenomanian Cretaceous, the paper says.