ATHENS, Ohio — A spectacular crested dinosaur with a huge “veil” has been unearthed in the Sahara, and scientists say it looked like a giant bulldog. The terrifying carnivore that roamed the Cretaceous was 20 feet long and weighed three tons – as big as a school bus. It was probably the main predator in its area.
The unnamed theropod is a member of the abelisaurids and a cousin of the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. Scientists discovered the 98-million-year-old neck bone fossil at Bahariya Oasis, about 180 miles southwest of Cairo. At the time, this site would have been one of the “most terrifying places on the planet,” notes lead author Belal Salem, a new student in the University of Australia’s Biological Sciences graduate program. ‘Ohio.
“How all these huge predators managed to coexist remains a mystery, although it is probably related to the fact that they ate different things, that they adapted to hunt different prey,” he explains in a communicated.
Researchers describe the dinosaur as having a “bulldog face,” with small, razor-sharp teeth. Like its cousin T. rex, it had stubby arms, but its huge claws made it even more ferocious. They believe it was a vicious killer with an extremely powerful bite, keen sense of smell, and great speed. He even hunted Spinosaurus, famous for beating a T. rex in Jurassic Park 3.
He lived near a river that crossed the Sahara, lined with mangrove-like trees. Its most striking feature was the spinal sail, formed by elongated vertebrae connected by a membrane.
A series of flat bones under the skin reached six feet in length. They were covered with a network of fine veins. Blood pumped through them – rinsing the veil of color. It could have changed hue to attract a mate, frighten an enemy, and control body temperature by absorbing heat.
“Abelisaurids – notably represented by the horned, demonic Patagonian form Carnotaurus of Jurassic World and prehistoric planet fame – were among the most diverse and geographically widespread of the large predatory dinosaurs in the southern landmasses during the period of the Cretaceous, the final period of the Age of Dinosaurs,” the authors explain in an academic statement. “Along with Spinosaurus and two other giant theropods – Carcharodontosaurus and Bahariasaurus – the new abelisaurid fossil adds another species to the cadre of large predatory dinosaurs that roamed what is now the Egyptian Sahara about 98 million years ago.”
What are abelisaurids?
Abelisaurids were a family of apex predators that roamed the lands that are now South America, India, and Africa. Scientists believe they preyed on some of the largest dinosaurs, including the Titanosaur, a herbivore 70 tons larger than a blue whale. The discovery also shows that the Trans-Saharan Seaway, a warm, shallow ocean that once covered the Sahara Desert, did not stop their migration.
“The new dinosaur demonstrates a wide geographic distribution of abelisaurids across North Africa and the extraordinary diversity of large-bodied dinosaurs from Egypt. This dinosaur assemblage appears to have spanned most or all North Africa during the Late Cretaceous,” Salem told South West News Service. “This suggests that the Trans-Saharan Seaway did not represent a significant barrier to dispersal of large theropods at present.
Several non-avian theropod dinosaur fossils have been reported from the Bahariya Formation. They include Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, Carcharodontosaurus saharicus, Bahariasaurus ingens, and Deltadromeus agilis.
“Curiously, several of these forms – namely Spinosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, Bahariasaurus and Deltadromeus – reached exceptionally large body sizes – comparable to those of Tyrannosaurus rex,” says Salem. “While undoubtedly a significantly smaller-bodied animal, the new abelisaurid confirms the presence of a fourth medium-to-large sized theropod taxon in the Bahariya Formation paleoecosystem.”
The results are published in the Royal Society’s Open Science journal.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.