Even though the fossils of gigantic herbivorous dinosaur Mansourasaurus shahinae was discovered in the Sahara Desert, it is more common with dinosaurs found in Europe than it did with dinosaurs uncovered in Africa.
This astonishing discovery has led scientists to believe that the new dinosaur species is the key to long-standing questions on the Pangaea theory, stating that a supercontinent existed in the late Paleozoic and early Mezosoic eras, which broke apart into several large continents that we know of today.
Rare Dinosaur Discovery
The fossilized remains of the bus-sized plant eater discovered in 2013 in the Sahara Desert is the most complete Cretaceous-era dinosaur skeleton discovered in Africa.
Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils are considered rare discoveries in Africa.
"This was the Holy Grail — a well-preserved dinosaur from the end of the age of dinosaurs in Africa — that we paleontologists had been searching for for a long, long time," said author study Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.
The Mansourasaurus was unearthed by an expedition led by Dr. Hesham Sallam of the Mansoura University's Department of Geology at the Campanian Quseir formation of the Dakhla Oasis of the Egyptian Western Desert.
The dinosaur belongs to the sauropod group Titanosauria, which were believed to have lived some 80 million years ago.
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 of the dinosaur were intact upon discovery.
This allowed the scientists to further analyze Africa's fossil record and paleobiology to know what animals lived there and what other species were the said animals most closely related.
Possible Missing Link To The Supercontinent
"The discovery of rare fossils like this sauropod dinosaur helps us understand how creatures moved across continents and gives us a greater understanding of the evolutionary history of organisms in this region," according to Dena Smith, a program director in National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences.
During the Triassic and Jurassic periods, all continents are joined together as the supercontinent Pangaea. Between 66 million and 100 million years ago, continents started shifting and splitting apart during the Cretaceous period.
Analysis of the features of the Mansourasaurus's bones showed that it is closely related to dinosaurs from Europe and Asia than dinosaurs found in Africa and South America.
This has lead scientists to believe that dinosaurs moved around both in Eurasia and African land mass even after the shifting of continents and disputes earlier postulations that dinosaurs that lived in the African mainland were completely isolated during the Cretaceous period.
"Africa's last dinosaurs weren't completely isolated, contrary to what some have proposed in the past," says Dr. Eric Gorscak, a contributing author to the study and a research scientist at The Field Museum. "There were still connections to Europe."
More Discoveries To Come
Now that they have easy access to the fossil sites, scientists will further study Egyptian and African paleontology to the determine the links between Africa and six other continents. The discovery of the Mansourasaurus will also allow scientists to further study land-dwelling animals at the age of dinosaurs.
The study is published in the journal Nature Ecoloy and Evolution.