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The first platypus fossil from Africa hints at how dinosaurs once crossed the oceans



The first platypus fossil from Africa hints at how dinosaurs once crossed the oceans

Platypus evolved in North America, spreading to South America, Asia, Europe and eventually Africa. Credit: Raul Martin

The first fossils of platypus have been discovered in Africa, suggesting that the dinosaurs crossed hundreds of kilometers of open water to get there.


Research, published in Research in the Cretaceous period, report on new dinosaurs, Ajnabia odysseus, from the rocks in Morocco dating back to the Late Cretaceous, 66 million years ago. Ajnabia is a member of the platypus, a diverse plant-eating dinosaur up to 1

5 meters long. But the new dinosaur was very small for its relatives – only 3 meters long, it was the size of a foal.

The platypus developed in North America and eventually spread to South America, Asia and Europe. Because Africa was an island continent in the Late Cretaceous, isolated by deep sea lanes, it seems that the speculum cannot reach it.

Dr Nicholas Longrich, of the Milner Evolution Center at the University of Bath, who led the study, said: “The discovery of a new fossil in a mine a few hours from Casablanca is“ the last thing in the world. that you expect ”. . Dr. Longrich said: “It’s completely out of place, like finding a kangaroo in Scotland. Africa is completely isolated by water – so how did they get there?”

Ajnabia’s study of the distinctive teeth and jaw bones showed that it belonged to Lambeosaurinae, a subfamily of the speculum with a complex, skeletal crown. Lambeosaurs evolved in North America before spreading to Asia and Europe, but have never been found in Africa before.

The first platypus fossil from Africa hints at how dinosaurs once crossed the oceans

The silhouette shows the size of Ajnabia compared to humans and the contemporary Maastrichtian dinosaur system in Morrocco. Credit: Dr. Nick Longrich

Reconstructing the platypus’s evolution, they discovered lambeosaurs evolved in North America, then spread across a land bridge to Asia. From there, they colonized Europe, and eventually Africa.

Because Africa was isolated by the deep oceans at the time, the platypus had to cross hundreds of kilometers of open water rafting on debris, floating or swimming – to capture the continent. Platypus are probably vigorous swimmers – they have large tails and strong legs, and are often found in river sediments and sea rocks, so they can only swim from afar.

“Sherlock Holmes said, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be true,” said Longrich. “It’s impossible to walk to Africa. These dinosaurs evolved long after continental drift separating continents and we have no evidence of land bridges. Geology tells us. Africa is isolated by the oceans. If so, the only way to get there is Water. “

Referring to this feat, the dinosaur was named “Ajnabia odysseusAjnabi is Arabic for “foreigner”, and Odysseus refers to Greek seafarers.

Crossings are rare, unlikely, but observable events that have been observed throughout history. In one case, the green iguana moved between the Caribbean islands during a hurricane caused by debris. In another, a turtle from the Seychelles drifted hundreds of kilometers across the Indian Ocean into Africa.

The first platypus fossil from Africa hints at how dinosaurs once crossed the oceans

A map showing the location of the platypus during the late Cretaceous period. Credit: Dr. Nick Longrich

“Over millions of years,” says Longrich, events that happen in a century can happen many times. Crossing the ocean is needed to explain how lemurs and hippos get to Madagascar, or how monkeys and rodents cross the sea from Africa to South America. “

But the fact that platypus and other dinosaur groups spread between continents, even at high sea levels, suggests dinosaurs have also traveled across the oceans. “As far as I know, we were the first to propose dinosaur crossings,” said Longrich.

An international team of scientists led by the University of Bath with researchers from Basque Country University UVP / EHU (Spain), George Washington University (USA) and Sorbonne University’s Museum of Natural History (France) / Universite Cadi Ayyad (Morocco).

Dr. Nour-Eddine Jalil, from the Sorbonne University’s (France) Museum of Natural History, said: “The continuity of impossible events (dinosaurs across the ocean, fossils of terrestrial animals in marine environment) highlight the rarity of our findings and hence its importance.

“Ajnabia shows us that tyrannosaurs have landed in Africa, telling us that ocean barriers are not always insurmountable ones.”


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More information:
Nicholas R. Longrich et al., The first platypus (family Hadrosauridae: Lambeosaurinae) came from Africa and the role of ocean floor scattering in dinosaur biology, Research in the Cretaceous period (Year 2020). DOI: 10.1016 / j.cretres.2020.104678

Provided by University of Bath

Quote: Africa’s first platypus fossil hints of how dinosaurs once crossed an ocean (2020, November 5) retrieved November 5, 2020 from https://phys.org/ news / 2020-11-duckbill-dinosaur-fossil-africa-hints. html

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