Posted by: Dr. Y. | November 18, 2019

The Sahara was Home to World’s Largest Sea Creatures

Sahara_ancient sea creatures

Some of the sea creatures that lived underwater in the location where the Sahara desert is today. (Source: American Museum of Natural History 2019)

Given that Africa is the cradle of humanity, it totally makes sense that it would also be the place where some the world’s largest sea creatures hail from. The excerpt below from the Guardian reveals that the Sahara was home to some of the world’s largest sea creatures. Enjoy!

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Scientists reconstruct extinct species using fossils found in northern Mali from ancient seaway

Some of the biggest catfish and sea snakes to ever exist lived in what is today the Sahara desert, according to a new paper that contains the first reconstructions of extinct aquatic species from the ancient Trans-Saharan Seaway.

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Map of Mali with its capital Bamako

The sea was 50 metres deep and once covered 3,000 sq km of what is now the world’s biggest sand desert. The marine sediment it left behind is filled with fossils, which allowed the scientists who published the study to build up a picture of a region that teemed with life.

Between 100 m and 50 m years ago, today’s arid, boulder-strewn northern Mali “looked more like modern Puerto Rico”; the sun shone on some of the earliest mangroves, and molluscs lined the shallow seabed, according to Maureen O’Leary, the palaeontologist who led the study.

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Reconstruction of sharks feeding on a dyrosaurid crocodily form. (Source: American Museum of Natural History 2019)

The study also formally named the geological units, literally putting the area on the geological map for the first time, showing how the sea ebbed and flowed over its 50 m years of existence, and building up information about the K-Pg boundary, the geophysical marker of one of Earth’s five major extinction events, in which the non-avian dinosaurs became extinct.

With 1.6 m catfish, 12.3 m sea snakes and 1.2 m pycnodonts – a type of bony fish – O’Leary and the other scientists developed the idea that in the late Cretaceous and early Paleogene period, the animals were experiencing gigantism.

Evolutionary biologists have long talked about the phenomenon of island gigantism, where species that live on small islands can sometimes develop very large bodies, possibly because they have more resources or there are few predators, or both.

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