A team of paleontologists announces that they have identified the remains of a new type of large carnivorous dinosaur from the Abelisaurid family in Egypt, at a famous fossil site. The animal, which evolved about 98 million years ago, was about six meters long, about as long as an adult saltwater crocodile.
A new large African predator
The Bahariya Formation is a geological formation located in the oasis of the same name in central Egypt. Over the past few decades, paleontologists have discovered many iconic dinosaur fossils here that evolved during the Cretaceous, among other ancient creatures. Remains of Carcharodontosaurus or Spinosaurus have notably been isolated on the spot. All fossils collected before World War II were however destroyed.
In a new study, a team describes the discovery of a new predator belonging to the large family Abelisaurids. These theropod dinosaurs were characterized by a short snout, small teeth and small arms. Abelisaurid fossils had previously been found in Europe and many continents of today’s Southern Hemisphere, but never in the Bahariya Formation.
The fossil in question, a vertebra from the base of the neck, was recovered in 2016. How can the discovery of a single bone lead researchers to conclude that the fossil really belongs to a member of this family? The latter is almost identical to the same bone found in other better known abelisaurids, such as Carnotaurus from Argentina and Majungasaurus from Madagascar.
A “terrifying place”
Based on his analysis, paleontologists suggest the animal was about six meters long. He has not yet been officially named.
This new top predator naturally had a lot of competition in its time. “In the middle of the Cretaceous, the oasis of Bahariya would have been one of the most terrifying places on the planet,” notes Belal Salem of Ohio University. “How all of these huge predators managed to co-exist remains a mystery, though it’s probably related to the fact that they ate different things and adapted to hunt different prey.”
This new vertebra also has implications for our understanding of Cretaceous dinosaur biodiversity in Egypt and throughout the northern region of Africa. Its discovery indeed suggests that these large carnivores extended over much of the northern part of the continent, from present-day Egypt to Morocco, but also further south to Niger and potentially beyond.