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31 January 2018, 08:45 | Floyd Cook
New African dino sheds light on Pangaea break-up
Africa'sfossil record is so sparse because many remains from the Late Cretaceous (the period between around 100 to 66 million years ago) are concealed beneath vegetation-covered land - not the exposed rock that's famous for turning up fossils.
Findings show that the dinosaur was about 10 meters long and weighed 5,000 kg and was a member of a group called titanosaurs that included the earth's largest-ever land animals.
Student Mai El-Amir, left, and professor Hesham Sallam of Mansoura University prepare to glue bones of the new titanosaurian dinosaurMansourasaurus shahinae in the field.
A new dinosaur of titanic proportions unearthed in the Egyptian desert could help scientists shed light on the history of dinosaurs in Africa. Its name honors the town where the university is located, as well as Mona Shahin, who helped develop the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology project. The Mansourasaurus has proven instrumental in decoding this mystery, as the anatomical features of its bones are much more closely related to European and Asian dinosaurs than those from further south in Africa, or South America, showing that dinos were still moving between what we now know as separate continents during this period. "At about 80 million years old, our new beastie is the only named dinosaur from the last 30 million years of the Cretaceous in Egypt". "A well-preserved dinosaur from the end of the Age of Dinosaurs in Africa that we palaeontologists had been searching for for a long, long time", Study co-researcher Dr Matt Lamanna of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, adding that his jaw "hit the floor" after seeing the photos of the fossils.
"The end of the age of dinosaurs in Africa is one of the final frontiers for dinosaur paleontology", Lamanna says.
This proves, the researchers said, that at least some dinosaurs could still move between Europe and Africa in the Late Cretaceous. Parts of the skull, the lower jaw, neck and back vertebrae, ribs, most of the shoulder and forelimb, part of the hind foot and pieces of dermal plates were all preserved. Lamanna and a group of paleontologists from various research institutions then flew to Egypt to examine the fossil.
All through a significant part of the Triassic and Jurassic periods, amid the early years of the dinosaurs, the Earth's landmasses were consolidated as one extensive land mass, known as Pangaea. "That in any event some African dinosaurs had other close relations in different mainlands at the time".
"Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that Mansourasaurusis nested within a clade of penecontemporaneous titanosaurians from southern Europe and eastern Asia, thereby providing the first unambiguous evidence for a post-Cenomanian Cretaceous continental vertebrate clade that inhabited both Africa and Europe", says the study.
Mr Gorscak said: "Africa's last dinosaurs weren't completely isolated, contrary to what some have proposed in the past". "There were still connections to Europe".
Experts on African paleontology from multiple institutions in Egypt and the US contributed to the research.
As opposed to being a bit of a jigsaw filling in the holes in dinosaur history, it is more similar to "a corner piece", said Dr Gorscak.
"What's exciting is that our team is just getting started".
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