If you’re reading this, odds are you grew up believing that “Jurassic Park” was a pretty close (albeit not entirely accurate) representation of what dinosaurs were really like — beastly lizards which, while varying in their threat level, were all big and scaly. Over the past several years, science has blown a hole in such lunchbox imagery — most dinos actually had feathers, for instance, and real-life velociraptors were closer to turkeys than humans in size — but a recent finding reminds us that not all the mystique has been sucked out of these extinct creatures.
BGR reports that paleontologists have just discovered the fossils of a brand-new species of dinosaur in the Sahara Desert. Publishing their findings in the journal Nature, they’ve dubbed it a Mansourasaurus (after their Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology program) and classified it as a titanosaur, or a long-necked, long-tailed sauropod that walked on four thick legs. Think of a brontosaurus or brachiosaurus and you can picture the basic gist of this guy.
Mansourasaurus might not be as big as those examples, but it was still a big fella in line with the more conventional idea of what a dinosaur is — approximately the size of a bus, the weight of an elephant, and most likely a herbivore who used his long neck to munch on leaves.
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The researchers haven’t yet nailed down a ton of other details of their new species’ physiology and behavior, but the discovery does have other implications:
It might not be the most exciting new dinosaur, but thanks to the drought of African fossils from this time period, its discovery is giving researchers plenty of reason to take notice. Its similarity to other sauropod dinosaurs from around the same time, including many skeletal features that match up with creatures found in Europe, reveals that dinosaurs in Africa didn’t exist in a vacuum.
“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. “Africa remains a giant question mark in terms of land-dwelling animals at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs. Mansourasaurus helps us address longstanding questions about Africa’s fossil record and paleobiology—what animals were living there, and to what other species were these animals most closely related?”
With such an important discovery under their belts, the researchers hope that the discovery of new fossil evidence in Africa will come more frequently in the future.
This is all very fascinating, but I think I speak for many of you when I leave you with this closing question: did it have feathers?
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