"Once In A Million Year" Researchers Detected Unusual Fossils of Duckbill Dinosaurs in Morocco


Fossils of pony-sized duckbill dinosaurs from Morocco have been detected by an international team of researchers. 

Their inspection showed a shocking link between the dinosaurs of Europe and Africa.

How did duckbill dinosaurs, a squad that emerged in North America, end up in Morocco? At the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years before, high sea levels and the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea left Africa as an isolated island continent. It was surrounded on all sides by water.

Many years ago, leftovers of a member of the duckbill dinosaur family – a group that developed in North America – were, however, discover in Africa, asking just how they got there.

Now, a new study issued in Scientific Reports shows that not only did duckbills direct to cross the Tethys Sea, but they became very diversified once they colonized Africa, with at least three variations surviving in North Africa at the end of the Cretaceous.

The fossils from Morocco show a new type of duckbill dinosaur, Minqaria bata, which was near about 3-4 meters long and weighed about 250kg, as the dimensions of a pony. Even though the animal was small by the duckbill standards, the bones of the skull were deeply merged together, indicating it was mature.

The anatomy of the new duckbill closely looks like that of European variations, recommending that the duckbills swam or floated across many hundred kilometers of open water to colonize North Africa. Furthermore, larger bones recommend a third and bigger species, around 5-6 meters long.

The study was managed by Dr. Nicholas Longrich of the Department of Life Sciences and the Milner Centre for growth at the University of Bath, Xabier Pereda-Suberbiola of the University of the Basque Country, Nathalie Bardet of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, and Nour-Eddine Jalil, of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and Museum of Natural History of Marrakesh, Universite Cadi Ayyad.

The latest dinosaur is entitled Minqaria bata (Arabic for ‘beak’ and ‘duck’ respectively). Minqaria closely looks like the only lastly called African duckbill, Ajnabia odysseus, but the dimensions of the jaws and teeth is different, indicating it was a separate species, and maybe covered a separate ecological niche.

Both Minqaria and Ajnabia were member of the subfamily Lambeosaurinae, a squad of duckbills famous for their elaborate head crests. These crests weren’t totally for show; they housed long nasal passages that could sound just like a horn.

“These were maybe noisy, vocal animals,” said Dr. Longrich, who conducted the study. “Modern birds vocalize to detect mates, or to announce territories. 

But they’re mainly vocal in flocks – a flock of flamingos or a nesting colony of pelicans is very ear-piercing, continuously interacting. “So it’s possible that as birds, these duckbills were social animals.”

The brain is also huge by dinosaur levels, a quality related with social animals such as crows and primates.

Dr Longrich said: “There were likely very loud, noisy herds – or flocks if you choose – of these tiny duckbills roaming the coasts of Morocco 66 million years ago.”

Minqaria was a tiny beast, but the bones around the brain are too closely connected together and partially fused, indicating that it was a proper developed adult. 

The other Moroccan species, Ajnabia, was around the similar measurement. Larger bones also examined by the group, involving an arm bone and a thigh bone, recommend a third, bigger species.

“Not only did duckbills manage to arrive at Africa at the end of the Cretaceous,” said Longrich, “But once they did, they fatly developed to redeem benefit of open niches and became diverse.”

“It’s totally improbable that dinosaurs could pass water to get to Africa,” said Longrich,  given sufficient period, improbable things become probable. Buy a lottery ticket daily, and if you wait for a long period of time, you’ll be victorious.

“These ocean passing might be once-in-a-million-year events but the Cretaceous ended nearly 100 million years. Many unusual things will occur in that period – along with dinosaurs passing seas.”

Contemporary beasts, he observed, have sometimes been observed making strange ocean trips. 

“These duckbills are perhaps the most shocking discovery of my whole life,” said Longrich. “If you questioned me what type of dinosaurs we’d discover in Africa, then a duckbill is the last thing I would have imagined, let alone three species.

“There’s still many things which are pending to be known in the fossil record, but if there wasn’t, we wouldn’t have requirement to continue collecting fossils.”

Minqaria and its knowns are players that a few years before we would never have imagined to be on the African continent at that time.

“Despite their marine beginning, these phosphates of Morocco also carries leftover of vertebrates that survived on land. They constitute one of the only windows on the terrestrial ecosystems in Africa. The dinosaur leftovers indicates a great diversity, all the three major groups of dinosaurs are showed, the abelisaurid carnivores and the sauropod and ornithischian herbivores.”

The research was sponsored by the European Regional Development Fund and the Ministry of Science and Innovation.