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New Species Of Prehistoric Giants Discovered In The Sahara

--- On Tue, 12/16/08, Yasmani Ceballos Izquierdo <yceballos@uci.cu> wrote:

> From: Yasmani Ceballos Izquierdo <yceballos@uci.cu>
> Subject: New Species Of Prehistoric Giants Discovered In The Sahara
> To: "dinos" <dinosaur@usc.edu>, "VRTPALEO@usc.edu" <VRTPALEO@usc.edu>
> Date: Tuesday, December 16, 2008, 6:41 PM
> http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081216114750.htm
> ScienceDaily (Dec. 16, 2008) - Dinosaur hunters on a
> month-long expedition to the Sahara desert have returned
> home in time for Christmas with more than they ever dreamed
> of finding. They have unearthed not one but two possible new
> species of extinct animals. Their success marks one of the
> most exciting discoveries to come out of Africa for 50
> years.....
> The team have discovered what appears to be a new type of
> pterosaur and a previously unknown sauropod, a species of
> giant plant-eating dinosaur. Both would have lived almost
> one hundred million years ago.
> The palaeontologists discovered a large fragment of beak
> from a giant flying reptile and a more than one metre long
> bone from a sauropod, which indicates an animal of almost 20
> metres (65 feet) in length. The discovery of both is
> extremely rare.
> The expedition was composed of scientists from the
> University of Portsmouth, University College Dublin (UCD)
> and the Université Hassan II in Casablanca and was led by
> UCD palaeontologist, Nizar Ibrahim.
> Ibrahim, who is an expert on North African dinosaurs, said:
> ""Finding two specimens in one expedition is
> remarkable, especially as both might well represent
> completely new species."
> Dr David Martill, a reader in Palaeobiology at the
> University of Portsmouth, said: "Plant eaters are
> uncommon in this deposit, extremely rare in this region and
> to find one this large is very exciting. It's a major
> discovery."
> For Martill it was also significant because it marked a
> successful conclusion to a quest begun almost 25 years ago.
> In 1984, driven back by sandstorms, his original mission to
> find a sauropod came to a halt just 20 miles away from the
> area of desert he had pinpointed as ripe for excavation. He
> returned empty handed but was left itching to retrace his
> steps.
> A quarter of a century later he unearthed the dinosaur that
> eluded him so long ago, together with fellow enthusiast,
> Ibrahim to whom he is passing the baton.
> Ibrahim will undertake the detailed analysis of the
> sauropod bone, which both scientists expect is a new species
> and genus of the sauropod family.
> "From our initial examination on site, we're
> almost certain that we have a new species on our
> hands," said Ibrahim, who will spend the next six
> months examining all of the fossils and writing about them
> for his PhD thesis.
> He will also examine the pterosaur remains which are
> particularly uncommon because their bones, optimised for
> flight, were light and flimsy and seldom well preserved.
> He said: "Most pterosaur discoveries are just
> fragments of teeth and bone so it was thrilling to find a
> large part of a beak and this was enough to tell us we
> probably have a new species."
> The team spent a month in the desert and travelled over
> five thousand miles by Landrover in an epic overland trip
> which has taken them through the Atlas mountains and has
> seen them battling sandstorms and floods in an Indiana
> Jones-style quest.
> Having discovered the giant sauropod bone they had to
> return to the nearest town to get more water and plaster
> with which to protect it, a trip which involved crossing
> flooded rivers in their Landrover at night with water coming
> in through the doors.
> During their fieldwork they were cut off from civilisation
> for 4 days when heavy rain in the Atlas mountains flooded
> the river Ziz. To retrieve the bone they had to manhandle
> the fossil in its plaster jacket down the side of a
> mountain, clearing thousands of stones to make a safe path
> to carry it on a wooden stretcher.
> "There was a point when we wondered if we would make
> it out of the desert with the bone, but we had worked so
> hard to find it so there was no way I was leaving it behind.
> It took us 5 days to get the bone out of the ground and down
> the mountain - and that was not the end of our
> problems," said Ibrahim.
> Dr Martill added: "When we had managed to get the bone
> in the Landrover the extra weight meant we kept sinking in
> the sand dunes and on several occasions everybody except the
> driver had to walk while we negotiated difficult terrain.
> Our journey home was equally eventful. While crossing the
> Atlas mountains we got caught in a snowstorm and total
> whiteout. But it's all been worth it."
> The team were also excited to discover some rare dinosaur
> footprints, including some that record several animals
> walking along the same trail.
> As well as discovering hundreds of dinosaur teeth, they
> also unearthed bits of giant crocodiles and some new species
> of fish.
> Ibrahim said: "It's amazing to think that millions
> of years ago the Sahara was in fact a lush green tropical
> paradise, home to giant dinosaurs and crocodiles and nothing
> like the dusty desert we see today. Even to a
> palaeontologist dealing in millions of years it gives one an
> overwhelming sense of deep time."
> The team also included Moroccan scientists Prof Samir
> Zouhri and Dr Lahssen Baidder as well as Portsmouth
> researchers Dr Darren Naish, Dr Robert Loveridge and Richard
> Hing.
> Prof Samir Zouhri, head of the Department of Geology at the
> Université Hassan II in Casablanca said: "Nizar
> Ibrahim is a very determined researcher and I knew that he
> would have success on this trip, but these fossils exceeded
> our expectations. It is wonderful that we have made these
> siginficant discoveries and that they will return to Morocco
> for display after study in Dublin."
> The sauropod and the pterosaur were found in south-east
> Morocco, near the Algerian border.