Massive dinosaur fossils dug up in Egypt

Some paleontologists theorized that, like modern-day Australia, Cretaceous Africa was essentially an island continent filled with unique species.

Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils are considered rare discoveries in Africa.

The remains are the most complete of terrestrial vertebrates found in Africa.

"Mansourasaurus shahinae is a key new dinosaur species, and a critical discovery for Egyptian and African paleontology", Dr. Eric Gorscak, co-author of the study, explains. The team's field tents are visible in the background. Many new dinosaurs emerged-in great numbers. Photo Credit: Mansoura University. According to Sallam, "The discovery and extraction of Mansourasaurus was such an awesome experience for the MUVP team. It was thrilling for my students to uncover bone after bone, as each new element we recovered helped to reveal who this giant dinosaur was".

Scientists from Mansoura University discovered its bones int he Sahara Desert in Egypt.

The find, named Mansourasaurus shahinae and described in a paper published Monday in the journal Nature, "is the most completely preserved land-living vertebrate" from the end of the Cretaceous Period ever found on mainland Africa, the study's authors write.

Paleontologist Matthew Lamanna can still remember the day in 2014 when a colleague, Hesham Sallam, emailed him detailed pictures of fossils that had just been unearthed by his team in Egypt.

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Throughout much of the Triassic and Jurassic periods, during the early years of the dinosaurs, the Earth's continents were joined together as one large land mass, known as Pangaea. During the Cretaceous, the continents started to split up and move towards the shape we see today.

Consequently, it has been unclear how well connected Africa was to other Southern Hemisphere landmasses and to Europe this time, and to what extent its animals may have been cut off and evolving separately as a result. "There were still connections to Europe", Gorscak said.

Mansourasaurus belongs to a group of sauropods called Titanosauria, which were common throughout the Cretaceous period.

It was modestly sized next to other titanosaur such as Africa's Paralititan and South America's Argentinosaurus, Dreadnoughtus and Patagotitan. These fossilized bones include bones of the skull, the lower jaw, vertebrae, ribs, much of a shoulder, a front paw and a hind paw and pieces of bone plates that strengthened its skin.

"Mansourasaurus, though a big animal by today " s standards, was a pipsqueak compared to some other Titanosaurs", said paleontologist Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

Paleontologists discovered a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur the length of a bus, giving valuable insight into Africa's prehistoric times.

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. MUVP student Iman El-Dawoudi played a particularly important role in the analysis of the new titanosaur, making numerous observations on its skeleton. But scientists know very little about what they were like, what happened to them, and how they're related to the dinosaurs found across Asia.

  • Megan Austin