Tiny African T-Rex Matters in a Big Way

An abelisaur skeleton. Image: Eurritimia, Wikimedia Commons

Analysis of a jaw bone fragment discovered in Morocco reveals the last African dinosaur to have roamed the earth before the mass extinction.

The mines at Sidi Chennane in the Oulad Abdoun Basin had been keeping their secret for the past 66 million years. Researcher Nick Longrich out of the University of Bath worked with a team based out of three different countries to identify the rare jaw bone fragment as belonging to an abelisaur.

Chenanisaurus barbaricus was the African version of the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex, albeit a miniature one. T. rex species had longer noses and arms and were partially feathered but otherwise similar to the scaly Chenanisaurus barbaricus.

Abelisaurs are confirmed to have been the apex predators in Africa, South America, and Europe during a time when tyrannosaurus ruled North America and Asia — the end-Cretaceous period. 

Worn teeth confirm a predatory identity.

“This find was unusual because it’s a dinosaur from marine rocks – it’s a bit like hunting for fossil whales and finding a fossil lion,” states researcher Longrich to New Scientist. “It’s an incredibly rare find – almost like winning the lottery. But the phosphate mines are so rich, it’s like buying a million lottery tickets, so we actually have a chance to find rare dinosaurs like this one.”

Research suggests that Chenanisaurus barbaricus was one of the last dinosaurs to walk the earth in Africa.

“It’s an exciting find because it shows just how different the fauna was in the southern hemisphere at this time,” explains Longrich.

Rajasaurus, an abelisaur from India. Image: Wikimedia Commons