Ah, I always love a new dinosaur discovery, and I’m continually amazed that there are so many left to be dug out of the ground. Mansourasaurus shahinae (named after Mansoura University and in honor of contributor Mona Shahin) is one of the most important paleontological finds coming out of Africa, from the Sahara Desert in Egypt, and was the length of a school bus, weighing as much as an African bull elephant.
This long-necked, plant eating dinosaur supposedly lived about 80 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous- a time period in which there’s very little fossil evidence from Africa to piece together. Mansourasaurus is one of the most complete specimens found from this period, and has thus become a key figure in understanding an epoch when the continents were changing, splitting apart, and isolating animals.
Although Mansourasaurus wasn’t huge, it’s part of a group of dinosaurs called Titanosaurs, which includes other sauropod dinosaurs like Argentinosaurus, Dreadnoughtus, and Patagotitan, some of the largest land animals to ever walk the earth.
But even though paleontologists recovered enough of the skeleton to celebrate, it’s still largely incomplete. According to a published report, we have parts of the skull, lower jaw, some neck and back vertebrae, ribs, most of the shoulder and forelimb, part of the hind foot, and, most interesting of all, are bony plates that covered the skin. Scientists had to piece it together using other dinosaurs for comparison, so its reconstruction is partly imagination and educated guesses.
I find it interesting when scientists paint an evolutionary history that becomes accepted truth based on incomplete evidence. Dr. Hesham, for example, analyzed the fossil features and found that Mansourasaurus is related more closely to dinosaurs in Europe and Asia than those in Africa or South America, and he concludes that some dinosaurs could travel between Africa and Europe. Dr. Hesham said, “Africa’s last dinosaurs weren’t completely isolated, contrary to what some have proposed in the past. There were still connections to Europe.”
Dena Smith of the National Science Foundation said, “The discovery of rare fossils like this sauropod dinosaur helps us understand how creatures moved across continents, and gives us a greater understanding of the evolutionary history of organisms in this region.”
However, such evolutionary connections aren’t demanded by the evidence- unless one assumes evolution to be true. As a creationist, I think what we learn is simply where certain dinosaurs were buried prior to the continents being divided. But regardless of which worldview we adhere to, scientists should be cautious about their claims because there’s still so much missing. In fact I like a quote by Dr. Eric Gorscak, a scientist at The Field Museum, who compared it to a puzzle: “It’s like finding an edge piece that you use to help figure out what the picture is, that you can build from. Maybe even a corner piece.”
Obviously, if you only have 18 of the 300 total pieces needed, then one needs to do a lot of guessing.
Here are links to other recent dinosaur discoveries I’ve posted: