The new discovery of Abelisauridae, which some experts have said could have been up to 11 meters (36 feet) long and weighed up to 3 tons (6,613 pounds), adds yet another fearsome predator to the list of those known to have co-existed in the same region, with experts predicting they may have survived alongside each other by specializing in eating different prey.
Ohio University said in a statement June 8: “The fossil of a still-unnamed species provides the first known record of the abelisaurid group of theropods from a middle Cretaceous-aged (approximately 98 million years old) rock unit known as the Bahariya Formation, which is exposed in the Bahariya Oasis of the Western Desert of Egypt.”
This reconstruction of the ecosystem of the Bahariya Oasis in the Sahara Desert of Egypt approximately 98 million years ago shows the diversity of large theropods (predatory dinosaurs). Andrew McAfee, Carnegie Museum of Natural History/Zenger
The university said that the area in Central Egypt was famous in the early 20th century for having yielded specimens from a wide range of dinosaurs and that this fossil appeared to belong to a whole new kind of dinosaur.
It is also the first time that an Abelisaurid fossil has been discovered at the Bahariya Formation.
The Abelisaurid dinosaur fossil is believed to date back to the middle Cretaceous era, making it approximately 98 million years old, according to experts.
The university explained in its statement: “Abelisaurid fossils had previously been found in Europe and in many of today’s Southern Hemisphere continents, but never before from the Bahariya Formation.”
Ohio University graduate student Belal Salem carried out the study, based on work he initiated while a member of the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology Center (MUVP) in Mansoura, Egypt.
Study leader Belal Salem of Ohio University and the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology Center (MUVP) examines the roughly 98-million-year-old abelisaurid therood neck vertebra discovered from the Bahariya Oasis that forms the basis of the new study. Hesham Sallam, American University in Cairo/MUVP/Zenger
The fossil was reportedly recovered during an expedition to the Bahariya Oasis in 2016, but it has only been identified as a new species recently, with the study being published this month.
Salem said: “During the mid-Cretaceous, the Bahariya Oasis would’ve been one of the most terrifying places on the planet.”
He added: “How all these huge predators managed to coexist remains a mystery, though it’s probably related to their having eaten different things, their having adapted to hunt different prey.”
The university added: “The new vertebra holds implications for the biodiversity of Cretaceous dinosaurs in Egypt and the entire northern region of Africa. It is the oldest known fossil of Abelisauridae from northeastern Africa, and shows that, during the mid-Cretaceous, these carnivorous dinosaurs ranged across much of the northern part of the continent, east to west from present-day Egypt to Morocco, to as far south as Niger and potentially beyond.
“Spinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus are also known from Niger and Morocco, and a close relative of Bahariasaurus has been found in the latter nation as well, suggesting that this fauna of large to gigantic theropods coexisted throughout much of northern Africa at this time.”
The abelisaurid neck vertebra constitutes the first record of this dinosaur group from that classic fossil locality. The bone is shown in anterior view. Belal Salem, Ohio University/Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology Center/Zenger
The Bahariya Oasis is renowned among paleontologists as the location where several extraordinary dinosaurs were first discovered during the early 20th century. But all Bahariya dinosaur fossils collected prior to World War II were destroyed during the Allied bombing of Munich in 1944.
The study, published in Royal Society Open Science, is titled “First definitive record of Abelisauridae (Theropoda: Ceratosauria) from the Cretaceous Bahariya Formation, Bahariya Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt.”
It was authored by Belal S. Salem, Matthew C. Lamanna, Patrick M. O’Connor, Gamal M. El-Qot, Fatma Shaker, Wael A. Thabet, Sanaa El-Sayed, and Hesham M. Sallam.
Other experts who worked on the study also included Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine professor of biomedical sciences Patrick O’Connor; Matt Lamanna, associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History; Sanaa El-Sayed, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan and the MUVP’s former vice director; Hesham Sallam, a professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Mansoura University and the founding director of the MUVP; and additional colleagues from Benha University and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency.