Oldest Fossil of Ankylosaur in the World found on the African Continent

T-Rex skeleton at the Chicago Field Museum

There was a major finding in the dinosaur world in Africa recently. As a parenthesis, I have always wondered why there are always several dinosaur sites around the globe, but very few on the African continent… as if dinosaurs somehow preferred to live on other continents but Africa. Given that Africa is the cradle of humanity, shouldn’t there be big findings on the continent as well? It most likely has to do with funding and interests of the people looking (who are mostly westerners), or could it be a deliberate need not to shed any lights on dinosaurs in Africa? Well, recently paleontologists have found the skeleton of the oldest ankylosaur so far in the world. Excerpts below are from an article on the Guardian.

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Extraordinary ankylosaur remains dating back 168m years a first for Africa

Fossil hunters have unearthed remnants of the oldest – and probably weirdest – ankylosaur known so far from a site in the Middle Atlas mountains in Morocco.

The remains of the heavily armoured animal are extraordinary in being the first to have defensive spikes that are fused to the skeleton, a feature researchers say is unprecedented in the animal kingdom.

… Dr Susannah Maidment, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, [said], “Normally when we see armour in stegosaurus and ankylosaurs, the dermal armour is embedded in the skin, not attached to the skeleton. In this case, it’s not only in contact with the skeleton, it’s fused to the ribs.”

Researchers at the museum obtained the fossil from a private collector for an undisclosed sum. They originally suspected the bones might belong to a new species of stegosaur they identified from the same region in 2019, but microscopic analysis of thin sections of the fossil revealed distinctive patterns of fibres unique to ankylosaurs.

The discovery was so unusual that scientists wondered whether the fossil might be a fake, but further inspection using a CT scanner found no signs that it had been constructed or tampered with.

The fossil dates to the middle Jurassic, about 168m years ago, suggesting the animal was one of the earlier ankylosaurs to roam the Earth. Beyond ranking as the oldest ankylosaur fossil known so far, it is also the first to be found in Africa.

… Details are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.