Recent news of discovery of the fossils of a dinosaur that lived in what is now Egypt’s Western Desert but what must have been a coastline some 70 – 80 million years ago have aroused huge local and global interest. The dinosaur was named “Mansourasaurus shahinae” after Mansoura University to which the discovery is attributed. The findings were published on 29 January in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution
Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, congratulated the palaeontologist team from Mansoura University on their find, and said a ceremony is being arranged to officially honour them.
The palaeontologist team which discovered the Mansourasaurus fossils was led by Hisham Sallam of Mansoura University’s Geology Department, and belongs to Mansoura University Vertebrate Palaeontology Centre (MUVP). Three of the palaeontologists are women: Dr Iman al-Daoudi and Dr Sanaa’ al-Sayed from Mansoura University, and Dr Sarah Saber from Assiut University.
President of Mansoura University, Professor Muhammad Qinawi, honoured the research team on 30 January, paying special tribute to the women. “This was arduous work that required weeks of camping in the desert,’ he said, “but they proved their forbearance, and have been outstandingly up to the challenge.”
The search began in 2008 in the sedimentary layers south of Egypt’s Western Desert. Five years later, in 2013, the team discovered Mansourasaurus in Dakhla Oasis in the New Valley governorate, some 700 km to the southwest of Cairo.
According to Dr Sallam, Mansourasaurus is the first of its kind in Africa, and goes back to the late Cretaceous period that extended from 135 million to 65 million years back in age. It is 10m long, Dr Sallam says, weighs some 5 tons, and is 75 million years old. He says it is small compared to other plant-eating dinosaurs of that age, which weighed an average 70 tons, possibly because dinosaurs became increasingly dwarfed during the late Cretaceous period. That time marked the final chapter in the age of dinosaurs, which came to an abrupt end when a giant meteor smacked into what is now the Yucatán Peninsula.
Remains of Cretaceous dinosaurs, Dr Sallam says, had been found in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Madagascar, but not in Africa. This is why Mansourasaurus is so important, he says, since it proves a geological connection between Africa and Europe back then. Africa had already separated from South America some 100 million years ago.
Mansourasaurus is not the first dinosaur to be discovered in Egypt, Dr Sallam says. Five others had been found, but they were 90 – 100 million years old.
The recent discovery represents a unique scientific excellence that reveals an ancient link between Africa and Europe as one landmass, and helps fill in gaps of African dinosaurs of Late Cretaceous period.
4 February 2018