Early in the Cretaceous Period, around 100 million years ago (mya), the landmass that would become Africa began to split off from Europa. This isolation continued for millions of years until about 50 mya, when the Mediterranean Sea finally formed. The area was a desert between modern Egypt and Libya, with rivers and oases that provided food and water for dinosaurs.
Scientists say this four-legged herbivore Mansourasaurus Shahinae could be “a missing evolutionary link” between dinosaurs that lived on the African continent and those in Europe and Asia. The dinosaur is helping researchers piece together the ancient geography of Africa.
This discovery is important because it helps fill in gaps in the fossil record of fish and animals during this period. If you think that Egyptians are all about mummies, think again.
The Supercontinent Hypothesis and Mammal Dispersal
Once upon a time, Africa was part of a supercontinent called Pangaea. Approximately 100 million years ago, the landmasses that make up Earth started to break apart, resulting in the continents as we know them today.
Scientists theorize that Pangaea broke up into smaller continents due to geological activity in the Earth’s mantle. It causes convection currents that make the plates move. As these plates move away, they form new oceans and create new land masses. Today, the Atlantic Ocean is widening due to plate tectonic activity.
The supercontinent hypothesis also explains how mammals were able to disperse across the globe from Africa during the Mesozoic era. There was a land bridge connecting Europe with Asia via what is now Russia during this time.
Mammals were able to migrate across this bridge and eventually populate much of the world through dispersal into Asia and North America before eventually reaching South America via Antarctica (which was wholly connected to Australia).
What’s remarkable about this fossil discovery is that it comes from a fossil-rich period for which we have limited evidence from Africa. The Late Cretaceous period is famous for its rich fossil record in North America and Europe. On the other hand, Africa is a blank page for paleontologists seeking to map the diversity of life during this time. Africa remains a giant question mark.
The Sahara Desert of Egypt: A Desert Discovery
The Sahara Desert has been a place of mystery for centuries. For most of us, it’s just a barren wasteland, but for paleontologists, it’s a veritable gold mine.
The Sahara Desert is a vast expanse of sand and rock that stretches across northern Africa, covering an area of over 9 million square kilometers, the most inhospitable place in the world.
At its widest point, it reaches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sudanese border with Chad. The desert has been home to many civilizations throughout history, but it remains uninhabited mainly today due to its harsh conditions.
In 2013, a team of Egyptian paleontologists surveyed the area and found fossilized remains of what they believed to be a new dinosaur species in the Dakhla Oasis, Egypt. That species was Mansourasaurus Shahinae which lived 80 million years ago, named after Mansoura University, and Dr. Shahin Razik, a leader in paleontology in Egypt.
The second part comes from Shahinae, which means “lady” in Arabic; scientists chose this because Dr. Shahin Razik was an essential member of society who helped fund significant projects like this one so people could remember her for all eternity. The Mansourasaurus Shahinae was 30 feet long, weighed 12 tons, and had a bony club at the end of its tail.
The Mansourasaurus was a herbivore, meaning that it only ate plants. It had a small head with no teeth and a long neck, which allowed it to reach up into trees to eat leaves. It had four legs, each with three toes.
Ancient Link Between Africa and Europe
Called “Mansourasaurus Shahinae” (Mansour + sauros = lizard), this new species is an essential bridge between dinosaurs emerging in Europe and Asia and those found in Africa on the other.
Scientists found the Mansourasaurus in Egypt, which is part of Africa. This discovery makes it one of the oldest dinosaurs ever discovered in Africa. It also has characteristics that link it to European dinosaurs. It had long arms and fingers like the brachiosaurids from Europe. Its body was more similar to other sauropods from Africa.
Mansourasaurus Shahinae lived during the Early Cretaceous period when Africa was still connected to Europe as part of the Gondwana supercontinent. Scientists think that these dinosaurs traveled between Africa and Europe via land bridges formed during periods when sea levels were low enough for these continents to connect.
These creatures managed to leave Africa and establish themselves in other parts of the world. This migration is even more evidence that global climate change can drastically affect animals’ ability to survive and adapt. It also shows us that there were many different dinosaurs across different continents at different times, so not every species was living simultaneously.
This discovery is essential because it’s one of the most well-preserved dinosaurs ever discovered. It has been so well preserved that scientists can tell from the fossil that it had feathers. A feature is previously seen only in birds. This discovery helps show how dinosaurs evolved into birds, which is still a hotly debated topic among paleontologists today.
The Mansourasaurus discovery is a welcome addition to the fossil record, and it will continue to spark further debate about the origin of sauropod dinosaurs. Researchers need to develop a new continent-wide perspective on the evolution of sauropods to determine what the origin of this group was. In this case, there are many questions without definitive answers.
The biggest question on most minds is whether Mansourasaurus should be African or European. From many perspectives, including aesthetics (man + sura = face of a god), its classification as African is correct.
It lived in Africa and originated from Africa. And yet there’s no denying that it has a striking resemblance to its European counterparts. This dinosaur is often referred to as an ancient link. like Barapasaurus, one wouldn’t be wrong calling it a “sister species” of sorts.
Paleontologists often refer to this dinosaur as the “Emperor Lizard King,” appropriate for such a massive creature. It was also one of the first dinosaurs discovered in Egypt. This dinosaur had features only found in Africa, while scientists found some features in Europe.
These features suggest that there was a land bridge between these two continents during the