The oldest stegosaur ever has been discovered in Morocco
A new species of stegosaurian dinosaur, Adratiklit boulahfa, has been described by researchers. It is the oldest definite stegosaur ever found, announced a team at the Natural History Museum in London.
Its remains were uncovered in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco, making Adratiklit the first stegosaur to be found in North Africa.
It is likely to be about 168 million years old.
All that is left of the animal is a handful of vertebrae and an upper arm bone, but those were enough for the team of palaeontologists to confidently identify not only a new species but a new genus.
The study was led by Dr Susannah Maidment, a Museum dinosaur expert, in collaboration with colleagues from Morocco.
The team concluded that this is a new specimen that lived on our planet about 168 million years ago.
“The discovery of A. boulahfa is particularly exciting as we have dated it to the Middle Jurassic,” Dr Susannah Maidment said.
“Most known stegosaurs date from later in the Jurassic Period, making this the oldest definite stegosaur described and helping to increase our understanding of the evolution of this group of dinosaurs.”
The discovered stegosaur is named Adratiklit boulahfa from the Berber words for mountain (Adras) and lizard (tiklit). The species name, boulahfa, refers to where the specimen was found.
According to the Natural History Museum, Adratiklit was an armored, herbivorous dinosaur and is part of the group of animals that includes ankylosaurs and stegosaurs. It would have lived on Gondwana, an ancient supercontinent.
Tom Raven, a PhD student at the Museum, helped to work out the evolutionary relationships of the specimen. This type of study allows palaeontologists to understand the relationship of this new dinosaur to known stegosaurs.
Tom says, ‘Despite being from the African continent our phylogenetic analysis indicated that, surprisingly, Adratiklit is more closely related to European stegosaurs than it is to the two genera known from southern Africa, Kentrosaurus and Paranthodon.’