Mansourasaurus shahinae was a long-necked, plant eating dinosaur that lived during the late Cretaceous period, about 80 million years ago, and its discovery is disrupting a major theory in the field of paleontology.
Uncovered recently by a team of Egyptian paleontologists in the Sahara Desert, researchers believe the dinosaur would have resembled a smaller, Elephant-sized version of its cousin, the brontosaurus. The group published their findings Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Matt Lamanna, paleontologist and principal dinosaur researcher at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, helped study the skeleton after its discovery. He said fossils of more recent dinosaurs, like those that appeared 30 million years or less before going extinct, are rarely found in Africa -- but this one was remarkably well-preserved.
"In fact, this is definitely the best dinosaur skeleton that's been found, probably within that entire time span in Africa," Lamanna said.
Parts of the Mansourasaurus shahinae's skull, ribs, shoulder and hind foot were found at the dig site.
Lamanna said it bears striking similarities to sauropods found in Europe, refuting a big theory in the field of paleontology that Africa was once an isolated continent. Mansourasaurus' discovery seems to prove that the creatures traveled between the two continents, and were not genetically isolated.
"To find a dinosaur from the end of the age of dinosaurs in Africa and have it be closely related to European dinosaurs was really exciting," Lamanna said. "It showed that this island continent hypothesis was at least not entirely correct, if not completely off base."
Lamanna said there's no current plan to move Mansourasaurus shahinae from Egypt at this time, though casts could be made to show parts of the specimen in other museums.