A fossil of one of the last dinosaurs living in Africa before their extinction 66 million years ago has been discovered in a phosphate mine in northern Morocco.
A study of the jawbone, led by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath in the UK, suggests Africa had its own distinct dinosaur fauna, until the asteroid strike that wiped them out.
“It comes from as really interesting time period around 66 to 67 million years ago. This is just before the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. We have a pretty good picture of the dinosaurs from North America for this time period. For example Triceratops and T. Rex are part of this fauna, this sort of twilight fauna of the last dinosaurs on earth but we don’t have a good picture of what’s going on in the rest of the world and we know almost nothing about the African dinosaurs from this time period.
So it’s the first named dinosaur from the end of the Cretaceous period in Africa in fact,” said Dr. Nick Longrich, Senior Lecturer in Evolution Biology at Milner Centre
Longrich named the smaller contemporary of the North American T. Rex ‘Chenanisaurus barbaricus’, after the phosphate mines in Morocco’s Ouled Abdoun Basin where it was found.
“The teeth hinted at a dinosaur like this and the jaw bone really kind of clinched it that this was one of these Abelisaurs. They are a very specialised group of dinosaurs. They are similar to a T. Rex. They are two legged predators but they are different.
They have a much shorter, blunter snout. The arms are actually shorter than those of a T. Rex and where as T. Rex is very bird-like and would have been feathered these things were scaly and T. rex wasn’t particularly intelligent but this thing had a smaller brain than even a T. Rex did. So in many ways it’s a much more primitive dinosaur,” Dr. Longrich added.
Longrich said the new dinosaur fills in gaps in our knowledge of the period and helps confirm the theory of mass extinction caused by an asteroid strike 66 million years ago.