Abstract

Prominent hypotheses advanced over the past two decades have sought to characterize the Late Cretaceous continental vertebrate palaeobiogeography of Gondwanan landmasses, but have proved difficult to test because terrestrial vertebrates from the final ~30 million years of the Mesozoic are extremely rare and fragmentary on continental Africa (including the then-conjoined Arabian Peninsula but excluding the island of Madagascar). Here we describe a new titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur, Mansourasaurus shahinae gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Quseir Formation of the Dakhla Oasis of the Egyptian Western Desert. Represented by an associated partial skeleton that includes cranial elements, Mansourasaurus is the most completely preserved land-living vertebrate from the post-Cenomanian Cretaceous (~94–66 million years ago) of the African continent. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that Mansourasaurus is nested within a clade of penecontemporaneous titanosaurians from southern Europe and eastern Asia, thereby providing the first unambiguous evidence for a post-Cenomanian Cretaceous continental vertebrate clade that inhabited both Africa and Europe. The close relationship of Mansourasaurus to coeval Eurasian titanosaurians indicates that terrestrial vertebrate dispersal occurred between Eurasia and northern Africa after the tectonic separation of the latter from South America ~100 million years ago. These findings counter hypotheses that dinosaur faunas of the African mainland were completely isolated during the post-Cenomanian Cretaceous.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Othman and A. Habib of the Faculty of Science at Mansoura University for logistical support, and M. El-Amir and F. Ibrahim (MUVP) for their critical roles in the field and laboratory work. A. McAfee skilfully executed the skeletal reconstruction in Fig. 1c and contributed greatly to Fig. 2, the other components of Fig. 1, and Supplementary Figs. 1–18. D. and R. Blakey kindly provided permission to reproduce the palaeogeographic map in Fig. 3a. We thank M. D’Emic and V. Díez Díaz for discussions, and V. Díez Díaz for providing unpublished photographs of the dentary of Ampelosaurus. Funding was provided by grants from Mansoura University, the Jurassic Foundation, the Leakey Foundation, the National Geographic Society/Waitt Foundation (grant no. W88-10) and the National Science Foundation (EAR-1349825 to P.M.O.).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology Center, Department of Geology, Faculty of Science, Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt

    • Hesham M. Sallam
    • , Iman A. El-Dawoudi
    • , Sanaa El-Sayed
    • , Sara Saber
    •  & Mahmoud A. Kora
  2. Department of Biological Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA

    • Eric Gorscak
  3. Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA

    • Eric Gorscak
    •  & Patrick M. O’Connor
  4. Integrative Research Center, The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL, USA

    • Eric Gorscak
  5. Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Athens, OH, USA

    • Patrick M. O’Connor
  6. Department of Geology, Faculty of Science, Assiut University, Assiut, Egypt

    • Sara Saber
  7. Department of Earth Sciences, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, CO, USA

    • Joseph J. W. Sertich
  8. Department of Integrative Anatomical Sciences, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

    • Erik R. Seiffert
  9. Section of Vertebrate Paleontology, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

    • Matthew C. Lamanna

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Contributions

H.M.S. directed the project and supervised the collection of the fossils in the field; H.M.S., I.A.E-D., S.E-S., S.S. and M.A.K. collected the fossils; I.A.E-D. and S.E-S. supervised fossil preparation; I.A.E-D. curated and measured the fossils; fossils were described by E.G., P.M.O., I.A.E-D. and M.C.L.; phylogenetic analysis was performed by E.G.; H.M.S., E.G., P.M.O., I.A.E-D., J.J.W.S., E.R.S. and M.C.L. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hesham M. Sallam.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary methods, figures, data and references.

  2. Life Sciences Reporting Summary

  3. Supplementary Information 2

    Data matrix for phylogenetic analysis without ulnar character data.

  4. Supplementary Information 3

    Data matrix for phylogenetic analysis with ulnar character data.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0455-5