This is a guest blogpost by Aya Nader.
Scientists have discovered remains of one of the last dinosaurs on Earth, in Morocco. About 66 or 67 million years old, Chenanisaurus barbaricus comes from the very end of the prehistoric animals’ reign.
Along with species like Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, it would have been there to watch the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Previously, the scientists have found only a few teeth, but now they have fossils that comprise part of the dinosaur’s jaw, which is unusually deep, suggesting a powerful bite, and a large body.
The remains were found in Ouled Abdoun, a phosphate sedimentary basin in Morocco.
Chenanisaurus is one of the only dinosaurs to have been found from this time period in Africa, and one of the youngest known members of the group, says corresponding author of the study Nicholas R. Longrich. “We have a pretty good picture of latest Cretaceous dinosaurs from North America and Asia, but very little from Africa, so it helps fill in our picture of what the fauna looked like at this time.”
There aren’t many terrestrial rocks from the latest Cretaceous that are exposed in Africa, he elaborates.
“What we do have is mostly marine rocks in Morocco and Angola, for example. That may be related to the fact that the sea levels were high at the end of the Cretaceous, so much of Morocco is underwater.”
There are a fair number of terrestrial fossils from this time period in Madagascar, he adds, but Madagascar isn’t really part of Africa. It broke off of India, Australia, and Antarctica in the middle of the Cretaceous.
Yet, the Moroccan phosphates are among some of the richest fossil beds in the entire world, according to Longrich. “So the upshot is that if you want to find a dinosaur from this time in Africa, the best place to look is in the marine rocks.”