The Dinosaurs

Dinos in Africa

Dinosaurs are a diverse group of reptiles of the clade Dinosauria. They first appeared during the Triassic period, between 243 and 233.23 million years ago, although the exact origin and timing of the evolution of dinosaurs is the subject of active research. They became the dominant terrestrial vertebrates after the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event 201.3 million years ago; their dominance continued throughout the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The fossil record demonstrates that birds are modern feathered dinosaurs, having evolved from earlier theropods during the Late Jurassic epoch. As such, birds were the only dinosaur lineage to survive the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event approximately 66 million years ago. Dinosaurs can therefore be divided into avian dinosaurs, or birds; and non-avian dinosaurs, which are all dinosaurs other than birds.

List of African dinosaurs

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This is a list of dinosaurs whose remains have been recovered from Africa. Africa has a rich fossil record, but it is patchy and incomplete. It is rich in Triassic and Early Jurassic dinosaurs. African dinosaurs from these time periods include Coelophysis, Dracovenator, Melanorosaurus, Massospondylus, Euskelosaurus, Heterodontosaurus, Abrictosaurus, and Lesothosaurus. In the Middle Jurassic, the sauropods Atlasaurus, Chebsaurus, Jobaria, and Spinophorosaurus, flourished, as well as the theropod Afrovenator. The Late Jurassic is well represented in Africa, mainly thanks to the spectacular Tendaguru Formation. Veterupristisaurus, Ostafrikasaurus, Elaphrosaurus, Giraffatitan, Dicraeosaurus, Janenschia, Tornieria, Tendaguria, Kentrosaurus, and Dysalotosaurus are among the dinosaurs whose remains have been recovered from Tendaguru. This fauna seems to show strong similarities to that of the Morrison Formation in the United States and the Lourinha Formation in Portugal. For example, similar theropods, ornithopods and sauropods have been found in both the Tendaguru and the Morrison. This has important biogeographical implications.
The Early Cretaceous in Africa is known primarily from the northern part of the continent, particularly Niger. Suchomimus, Elrhazosaurus, Rebbachisaurus, Nigersaurus, Kryptops, Nqwebasaurus, and Paranthodon are some of the Early Cretaceous dinosaurs known from Africa. The Early Cretaceous was an important time for the dinosaurs of Africa because it was when Africa finally separated from South America, forming the South Atlantic Ocean. This was an important event because now the dinosaurs of Africa started developing endemism because of isolation. The Late Cretaceous of Africa is known mainly from North Africa. During the early part of the Late Cretaceous, North Africa was home to a rich dinosaur fauna. It includes Spinosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, Rugops, Bahariasaurus, Deltadromeus, Paralititan, Aegyptosaurus, and Ouranosaurus.

Nyasasaurus in Africa Dated 240 million years

Nyasasaurus is an extinct genus of dinosauriform reptile from the Middle Triassic Manda Formation of Tanzania that appears to be the earliest known dinosaur. The type species Nyasasaurus parringtoni was first described in 1956 in the doctoral thesis of English paleontologist Alan J. Charig, but it was not formally described until 2013. Previously, the oldest record of dinosaurs was from Argentina and dated back to the late Carnian stage, about 231.4 million years ago. Nyasasaurus comes from a deposit that dates back to the Anisian stage, meaning that it predates other early dinosaurs by about 12 million years.

Two dinosaurs from Africa give clues to continents’ split
Fossils support idea of lingering bridges between landmasses

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“First wrinkle face,” a new dinosaur species discovered in Niger by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Paul Sereno, would have looked something like this in life. The dinosaur’s head was riddled with arteries and veins, leaving a web of grooves on the snout. Two rows of holes on the top of the snout may have supplied ornamental crests.
Credit: © 2004 Todd MarshallRugops primus, a new meat-eating dinosaur species found in Niger, measured about 30 feet long and probably was a scavenger. The dinosaur was found by paleontologist Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, with support from National Geographic.
Credit: © 2004 Todd MarshallRugops primus lived 95 million years ago in the Sahara, which then featured broad rivers and lush plains. The dinosaur’s discovery provides fresh evidence that narrow land bridges connected the ancient southern continents of Africa, South America and India until about 100 million years ago.
Credit: © 2004 Todd Marshall

Paleontologist Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, examines the jaw of a new dinosaur species moments after its discovery in 2000 in the Sahara in Niger.
Credit: Mike Hettwer

Globe shows the location of the discovery of Rugops primus in Niger as well as the position of the ancient southern continents and their interconnections some 100 million years ago.
Credit: Carol Abraczinskas

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Press citations:
“Dinosaur skull tracks continental drift”

May 31, 2003


The fossil skull of a wrinkle-faced, meat-eating dinosaur whose cousins lived as far away as South America and India has emerged from the African Sahara, discovered by a team led by University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno. The find provides fresh information about how and when the ancient southern continents of Africa, South America and India separated. The new species, which is 95 million years old, and a second new meat-eating species Sereno found on a separate expedition, help fill in critical gaps in the evolution of carnivorous dinosaurs on Africa. The species are described in a paper published online June 2 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences. The July issue of National Geographic magazine also will include an article on one of the dinosaurs. Sereno’s research was funded by National Geographic, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Pritzker Foundation and Nathan Myhrvold. Sereno, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, has named the ancient skull Rugops primus, meaning “first wrinkle face.” Measuring about 30 feet long in life, the animal had a short, round snout and small, delicate teeth, he said. It belongs to a group of southern carnivorous dinosaurs called abelisaurids. The head of Rugops had a tough covering of scales or surface armor and was riddled with arteries and veins, leaving a crisscross of grooves on the skull. “It’s not the kind of head designed for fighting or bone-crushing,” Sereno said. Instead, he believes Rugops was a scavenger, using its head to pick at carrion rather than fighting other animals for food. Sereno is puzzled by the presence of two neat rows of seven holes along the dinosaur’s snout. He speculates that the holes anchored something ornamental, used by the animal for display. “This may have been a scavenger with head gear,” he said. “It’s really a beautiful intermediate species of the group that later evolved into the first horned predators.” The authors of the scientific paper describing the two new dinosaur finds are Sereno, Jeffrey Wilson of the University of Michigan and Jack Conrad of the University of Chicago. The second new dinosaur species, named Spinostropheus gautieri, was found in Niger in the same 135-million-year-old rocks where Sereno’s expeditions excavated the dinosaurs Jobaria and Afrovenator. The fossil is an articulated, or connected, spine of a dinosaur and represents an ancient relative of Rugops and other abelisaurids. These finds provide fresh evidence about when Africa, Madagascar, South America and India finally split from each other as a result of continental drift. Before these discoveries, abelisaurids were virtually unknown on Africa, leading some to suggest that Africa had split off first from the southern landmass Gondwana, perhaps as early as 120 million years ago. The new fossils indicate that Africa and other southern continents that formed Gondwana separated and drifted apart over a narrow interval of time, about 100 million years ago. Co-author and team member Jeffrey Wilson, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, said, “Until the continents fully separated, dinosaurs like Rugops and other animals used narrow land bridges to colonize adjacent continents and roam within a few degrees of the South Pole.” The fossils were discovered on two separate expeditions that Sereno led to Niger, one in 1997 and the other in 2000, which have brought to light many new dinosaurs and the 40-foot-long crocodilian Sarcosuchus, also known as “SuperCroc.” Sereno recalls the day in 2000 when team member Hans Larsson, now an assistant professor at McGill University in Montreal, spotted a jawbone — and then, about two feet away, the rest of the skull. “It was hard to see which end was the front, but we quickly realized we were looking at a brain case, and that it was probably an abelisaur — a huge find,” Sereno said. Both Rugops and Spinostropheus came from the Cretaceous Period, when this area of Africa featured broad rivers and lush plains. Today it is located in the southern Sahara Desert, part of the Republic of Niger. Expeditions to the Sahara led by Sereno in 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2000 unearthed a gallery of new dinosaurs, including the first from Africa’s Cretaceous Period; they include Afrovenator, Jobaria, Deltadromeus, Carcharodontosaurus and Suchomimus. A National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence since 2000, Sereno has received 11 research grants from the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration as well as two grants from the Society’s Expeditions Council. Last modified at 12:34 PM CST on Tuesday, June 01, 2004.


By Ryan Somma –, CC BY 2.0, Spinosaurus (meaning “spine lizard”) is a genus of spinosaurid dinosaur that lived in what now is North Africa during the upper Albian to upper Turonian stages of the Cretaceous period, about 112 to 93.5 million years ago. This genus was known first from Egyptian remains discovered in 1912 and described by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer in 1915. The original remains were destroyed in World War II, but additional material has come to light in the early 21st century. It is unclear whether one or two species are represented in the fossils reported in the scientific literature. The best known species is S. aegyptiacus from Egypt, although a potential second species, S. maroccanus, has been recovered from Morocco. The contemporary spinosaurid genus Sigilmassasaurus has also been synonymized by some authors with S. aegyptiacus, though other researchers propose it to be a distinct taxon. Another possible junior synonym is Oxalaia from the Alcântara Formation in Brazil. Spinosaurus was among the largest of all known carnivorous dinosaurs, nearly as large as or even larger than other theropods such as Tyrannosaurus, Giganotosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus. Estimates published in 2005, 2007, and 2008 suggested that it was between 12.6–18 metres (41–59 ft) in length and 7 to 20.9 tonnes (7.7 to 23.0 short tons) in weight.[2][3][4] New estimates published in 2014 and 2018, based on a more complete specimen, supported the earlier research, finding that Spinosaurus could reach lengths of 15–16 m (49–52 ft).

By Mike Bowler from Canada – Spinosaurus, CC BY 2.0,

Spinosaurus marocannus jaw fossil (MNHN SAM 124), Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris.

By Bramfab – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Андрей Белов –, CC BY 3.0,

The 'Dino-Brexit': Ancient animals sparked Europe’s first migration crisis

SOME 125 million years ago, dinosaurs started leaving Europe, sparking the continents first migration crisis and no one knows why.
By Sean Martin

PUBLISHED: 15:54, Mon, Apr 25, 2016 | UPDATED: 16:17, Mon, Apr 25, 2016

In the early Cretaceous period, between 125 and 120 million years ago, researchers discovered that dinosaurs began moving away from Europe.
A team of scientists from the University of Leeds created a computer model of the fossil record of dinosaurs to figure out their migration pattern up until their extinction 65 million years ago.
They found that there was a mass exodus of dinosaurs between 125 and 120m years ago while no new species were moving in.
Lead author of the study published in the Journal of Biogeography, Dr Alex Dunhill, of Leeds University, said: “This is a curious result that has no concrete explanation.

The dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago


Another African Dinosaur – (150–145 million years ago)
Found in Tanzania By Shadowgate from Novara, ITALY – Museum für Naturkunde, CC BY 2.0, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Giraffatitan (name meaning “titanic giraffe”) is a genus of sauropod dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic Period (Kimmeridgian–Tithonian stages). It was originally named as an African species of Brachiosaurus (B. brancai), but this has since been changed. Giraffatitan was for many decades known as the largest dinosaur but recent discoveries of several larger dinosaurs prove otherwise; giant titanosaurians appear to have surpassed Giraffatitan in terms of sheer mass. Also, the sauropod dinosaur Sauroposeidon is estimated to be taller and possibly heavier than Giraffatitan. All size estimates for Giraffatitan are based on the specimen HMN SII, a subadult individual between 21.8–22.5 metres (72–74 ft) in length and about 12 meters (39 ft) tall. Mass estimates are varied and range from as little as 15 tonnes (17 short tons) to as much as 78.3 tonnes (86.3 short tons) but there is evidence supporting that these animals could grow larger; specimen HMN XV2, represented by a fibula 13% larger than the corresponding material on HMN SII, might have attained 26 metres (85 ft) in length or longer.[2]


There are many examples of fossils found on separate continents and nowhere else, suggesting the continents were once joined. If Continental Drift had not occurred, the alternative explanations would be:

  • The species evolved independently on separate continents – contradicting Darwin’s theory of evolution.
  • They swam to the other continent/s in breeding pairs to establish a second population.
Image: From This Dynamic Earth: The Story of Plate Tectonics p8

Remains of Mesosaurus, a freshwater crocodile-like reptile that lived during the early Permian (between 286 and 258 million years ago), are found solely in Southern Africa and Eastern South America. It would have been physiologically impossible for Mesosaurus to swim between the continents. This suggests that South America and Africa were joined during the Early Permian.
Cynognathus is an extinct mammal-like reptile. The name literally means ‘dog jaw’. Cynognathus was as large as a modern wolf and lived during the early to mid-Triassic period (250 to 240 million years ago). It is found as fossils only in South Africa and South America.


Lystrosaurus – which literally means ‘shovel reptile’ – was dominant on land in the early Triassic, 250 million years ago. It is thought to have been herbivorous and grew to approximately one metre in length, with a stocky build like a pig. Fossils of Lystrosaurus are only found in Antarctica, India and South Africa.
Glossopteris was a woody, seed-bearing shrub or tree, named after the Greek descripton of ‘tongue’ – a description of the shape of the leaves. Some reached 30m tall. It evolved during the Early Permian (299 million years ago) and went on to become the dominant species throughout the period, not becoming extinct until the end of the Permian. Fossils are found in Australia, South Africa, South America, India and Antarctica.
When the continents of the southern hemisphere are re-assembled into the single land mass of Gondwanaland, the distribution of these four fossil types form linear and continuous patterns of distribution across continental boundaries.

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