An abelisaurid from the latest Cretaceous (late Maastrichtian) of Morocco, North Africa
Nicholas R. Longrich, Xabier Pereda-Suberbiola, Nour-Eddine Jalil, Fatima Khaldoune, and Essaid Jourani
During the latest Cretaceous, distinct dinosaur faunas were found in Laurasia and Gondwana. Tyrannosaurids, hadrosaurids, and ceratopsians dominated in North America and Asia, while abelisaurids and titanosaurids dominated in South America, India, and Madagascar. Little is known about dinosaur faunas from the latest Cretaceous of Africa, however. Here, a new abelisaurid theropod, Chenanisaurus barbaricus, is described from the upper Maastrichtian phosphates of the Ouled Abdoun Basin in Morocco, North Africa on the basis of a partial dentary and isolated teeth. Chenanisaurus is both one of the largest abelisaurids, and one of the youngest known African dinosaurs. Along with previously reported titanosaurid remains, Chenanisaurus documents the persistence of a classic Gondwanan abelisaurid-titanosaurid fauna in mainland Africa until just prior to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. The animal is unusual both in terms of its large size and the unusually short and robust jaw. Although it resembles South American carnotaurines in having a deep, bowed mandible, phylogenetic analysis suggests that Chenanisaurus may represent a lineage of abelisaurids that is distinct from those previously described from the latest Cretaceous of South America, Indo-Madagascar, and Europe, consistent with the hypothesis that the fragmentation of Gondwana led to the evolution of endemic dinosaur faunas during the Late Cretaceous.
Featured image by Dmitry Bogdanov. CC BY-SA 3.0.