MANSOURA, Egypt – A skeleton has been unearthed in Egypt's Western Desert, whose ancient sands have long helped preserve remains, but unlike most finds this one isn't a mummy – it's a dinosaur.
Researchers from Mansoura University in the country's Nile Delta discovered the new species of long-necked herbivore, which is around the size of a city bus, and it could be just the tip of the sand dune for other desert dinosaur discoveries.
“As in any ecosystem, if we went to the jungle, we'll find a lion and a giraffe. So we found the giraffe; where's the lion?” said Hesham Sallam, leader of the excavation team and head of the university's Center for Vertebrate Paleontology.
Sallam, along with four Egyptian and five American researchers, authored an article in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution published Jan. 29 announcing the discovery.
Named Mansourasaurus Shahinae after the team's university and for one of the paleontology department's founders, the find is the only dinosaur from that period to have been discovered in Africa, and it may even be an undiscovered genus.
In the article, the authors say the team's findings “counter hypotheses that dinosaur faunas of the African mainland were completely isolated” during the late Mesozoic period. That is, previous theories were that Africa's dinosaurs during that time existed as if on an island and developed independently from their northern cousins.
But the fossilized skeletal remains suggest an anatomy not very different from those discovered in Europe from the same period, an indication that a land connection between Africa and its northern neighbor may have existed.
“When I first saw it I told them, if this comes out as I expect, your names will go down in history,” Sallam told his students.