Last of the dinosaurs: Fossil of African T. rex contemporary found in Moroccan mine
The exceptional discovery has shed light on dinosaur life in Africa at the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago, according to a study of the fossil conducted by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath in the UK.
“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," lead researcher Dr Nick Longrich said.
The fossil – a jaw bone fragment – was discovered in phosphate mines at Sidi Chennane in the Oulad Abdoun Basin, Morocco, and was identified as belonging to one of the ‘abelisaur’ group.
Named Chenanisaurus barbaricus, the newly discovered dinosaur stood on two legs and had stumpy arms, bearing a resemblance to the T. rex and other tyrannosaurs.
It was one of the largest abelisaurids, and one of the youngest known African dinosaurs, according to the study.
Scientists concluded that while the species had a shorter blunter snout and a smaller brain than the T. rex, it too was a predator.
The team analyzed teeth from the fossil, determining that they were worn from biting into bone.
The fossil find is remarkable as no other dinosaur fossils from this time period in Morocco have been located.
“It may even be the first dinosaur named from the end-Cretaceous in Africa. It's also one of the last dinosaurs in Africa before the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs,” Longrich said.
"It's an exciting find because it shows just how different the fauna was in the Southern hemisphere at this time."
The research project was carried out as part of an international scientific collaboration that is helping create and study paleontology collections in Morocco and is published in Cretaceous Research.