Although it might feel like every dinosaur that ever walked the planet has been discovered, we’re still turning up new fossils in the year 2017.
Scientists have announced the discovery of a new dinosaur that may have been the “smaller African contemporary” of the North American Tyrannosaurus Rex. It has been named Chenanisaurus barbaricus, and according to researchers, it’s incredibly rare. It went extinct around 66 million years ago, and it was just discovered in a phosphate mine in Morocco. (Longrich, Pereda-Suberbiola, Jalil, Khaldoune, & Jourani, 2017)
Last year, Dr. Nick Longrich from the University of Bath found a rare fragment of jaw bone in the mines of Sidi Chennane. Longrich and his colleagues believed it belonged to an abelisaur. (“‘Last African dinosaur’ discovered in Moroccan mine,” 2017)
“This find was unusual because it’s a dinosaur from marine rocks — it’s a bit like hunting for fossil whales, and finding a fossil lion,” he said. “It’s an incredibly rare find — almost like winning the lottery. But the phosphate mines are so rich, it’s like buying a million lottery tickets, so we actually have a chance to find rare dinosaurs like this one.” (“African T. rex was one of last dinosaurs alive before extinction,” 2017)
Similar to the T. Rex, abelisaurs are predators. However, they existed in a different part of the world, spanning Africa, South America, India and Europe.
“We have virtually no dinosaur fossils from this time period in Morocco — it may even be the first dinosaur named from the end-Cretaceous in Africa,” said Longrich. “It’s also one of the last dinosaurs in Africa before the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. It’s an exciting find because it shows just how different the fauna was in the Southern hemisphere at this time.”
Longrich went on to say that when it roamed the earth, the Chenanisaurus barbaricus had two legs and short, stumpy arms, similar to the T. Rex. It also had very small hands, and a small brain. However, it did have some key differences to its North American cousin. For example, it was primarily composed of scales, while the T. Rex was thought to be partially feathered. It also had a smaller, shorter face than the T. Rex.
“Although it resembles South American carnotaurines in having a deep, bowed mandible, phylogenetic analysis suggests that Chenanisaurus may represent a lineage of abelisaurids that is distinct from those previously described from the latest Cretaceous of South America, Indo-Madagascar, and Europe, consistent with the hypothesis that the fragmentation of Gondwana led to the evolution of endemic dinosaur faunas during the Late Cretaceous,” the researchers concluded in their study.