Dinosaurs have been found everywhere, and in recent years accompanying fossils have offered evidence of the ecology they lived in. As more specimens accumulate, there is also more of a picture of the populations of dinosaurs, and relationships among populations around the world.
Still, the geography of millions of years ago is only partly understood, so it is uncertain where dinosaurs were isolated populations, and where they might overlap, compete, and interbreed with each other.
Surprisingly, one area of great uncertainly is the geography of Africa in early Cretaceous times. With few fossils from that period known from present day North Africa and Middle East, little is known about the connections between dinosaurs in African and other land masses.
A new Titanosaur found in Egypt sheds light on this particular question . The partial remains are some of the most complete ever found in the area. One important point is that this is a perfectly ordinary (if small) Titanosaur, i.e., apparently not an isolated population.
The researchers at the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology Center find that they are related to clades found in Southern Europe, but more distantly with farther south in Africa. This indicates that there were routes between North Africa and Southern Europe at the time, and possibly less connection with the landmass to the south.
I note that the researchers (cautiously) criticize previous hypotheses that were based on “extremely limited and/or ambiguous evidence”. (, p. 6) Quite.
It will be interesting to see if more remains can be found at this site, to help fill in this missing piece of the picture of the dinosaur world.
- Helen Briggs, Lost history of African dinosaurs revealed, in BBC News – Science & Environment. 2018. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42860263
- Hesham M. Sallam, Eric Gorscak, Patrick M. O’Connor, Iman A. El-Dawoudi, Sanaa El-Sayed, Sara Saber, Mahmoud A. Kora, Joseph J. W. Sertich, Erik R. Seiffert, and Matthew C. Lamanna, New Egyptian sauropod reveals Late Cretaceous dinosaur dispersal between Europe and Africa. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2018/01/29 2018. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0455-5