New Egyptian sauropod reveals Late Cretaceous dinosaur dispersal between Europe and Africa


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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Fig. 1: Location, quarry map and skeletal reconstruction of Mansourasaurus shahinae gen. et sp. nov. (MUVP 200).
Fig. 2: Skeletal anatomy of Mansourasaurus shahinae gen. et sp. nov. (MUVP 200).
Fig. 3: Phylogenetic, temporal and palaeobiogeographic context of Mansourasaurus shahinae gen et sp. nov. and other saltasaurid titanosaurian sauropod dinosaurs.


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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.).

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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.

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Correspondence to Hesham M. Sallam.

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Supplementary methods, figures, data and references.

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Supplementary Information 2

Data matrix for phylogenetic analysis without ulnar character data.

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Data matrix for phylogenetic analysis with ulnar character data.

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Sallam, H.M., Gorscak, E., O’Connor, P.M. et al. New Egyptian sauropod reveals Late Cretaceous dinosaur dispersal between Europe and Africa. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 445–451 (2018).

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