One of the big noises in the Sahara before it became a desert

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SCIENTISTS HAVE identified a new species of long-necked dinosaur that roamed the African landscape 135 million years ago, when the Sahara was covered in lush vegetation and winding rivers.

After two years of painstaking work, palaeontologists have pieced together the fossilised bones of Jobaria tiguidensisfrom tons of rock excavated out of a dinosaur graveyard inNiger. The dinosaur, a primitive member of the Sauropod family, is estimated to have been more than 60 feet in length and could have reared up to a height of more than 30 feet to chew leaves in the tree tops.

Jobaria is named after "Jobar", a mythical creature in the legends of the local Tuareg nomads. Paul Sereno, a palaeontologist at the University of Chicago who led the research team, said that finding a well preserved member of the Sauropod family from such an old site was rare. "With 95 per cent of its skeleton preserved, the new species stands as the most complete long-necked dinosaur ever discovered from the Cretaceous period," Professor Sereno said.

Jobaria does not fit into any recognised group and appears to be a representative of an ancient Sauropod lineage that only lived in Africa during the Cretaceous age. Unlike other Sauropods, Jobaria had spoon-shaped teeth and a relatively short neck of 12 vertebrae. American Sauropods, such as Diplodocus and Apatosaurus, had more complex neck bones and extremely long tails.

The scientists found several Jobaria bones, including those of juveniles, at the same site, indicating that a herd had been killed in a flash flood.

Jeff Wilson, a member of the team, said: "Jobaria is a real survivor, a relic in its own day. Some dinosaurs change a lot in a short amount of time, whereas others like Jobaria change very little over millions of years," he said.

Its feet were set close together directly beneath its body, and the scientists believe Jobaria walked gracefully, much like an elephant. "Its bones could have supported its body when rearing during feeding or in courtship contests," Professor Sereno said.