First Dinosaur Fossils In Saudi Arabia
January 7, 2014

Team Discovers First Ever Dinosaur Fossils In Saudi Arabia

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

"An international team of scientists have discovered the first record of dinosaurs in Saudi Arabia. Researchers from Uppsala University, Museum Victoria, Monash University and the Saudi Geological Survey said they discovered a string of vertebrae from the tail of a huge "Brontosaurus-like" dinosaur in the desert. Finding dinosaur fossils in the Arabian Peninsula is exceptionally rare, so the latest finding reported in the journal PLOS ONE is considered a big one.

"Dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare in the Arabian Peninsula, with only a handful of highly fragmented bones documented this far,"said Dr. Benjamin Kear, based at Uppsala University in Sweden and lead author of the study. "This discovery is important not only because of where the remains were found, but also because of the fact that we can actually identify them. Indeed, these are the first taxonomically recognizable dinosaurs reported from the Arabian Peninsula.”

The team’s discovery included 72-million-year old vertebrae and some shed teeth from a carnivorous theropod, representing the first formally identified dinosaur fossils in Saudi Arabia. The fossils were found in the north-western part of the Kingdom along the coast of the Red Sea in an area that is now a dry desert, but was once littered with bones and teeth from marine reptiles and dinosaurs.

"Dinosaur remains from the Arabian Peninsula and the area east of the Mediterranean Sea are exceedingly rare because sedimentary rocks deposited in streams and rivers during the Age of Dinosaurs are rare, particularly in Saudi Arabia itself,” said Dr Tom Rich from Museum Victoria in Australia.

During the age of dinosaurs, the Arabian landmass was largely underwater and formed the north-western coastal margin of the African contingent. Researchers say this finding could now help lead scientists to other discoveries in the area.

"The hardest fossil to find is the first one. Knowing that they occur in a particular area and the circumstances under which they do, makes finding more fossils significantly less difficult" says Rich.

The team said that one of the dinosaur fossils discovered belonged to a bipedal meat-eating abelisaurid, which is a distant relative to the Tyrannosaurus rex but only 20 feet long. The other fossil is from a plant-eating titanosaur that could have been up to 65-feet in length. Similar dinosaur fossils have been discovered all over the world, including North Africa, Madagascar and South America.

“The recognition of titanosaurians and abelisaurids from Saudi Arabia extends the palaeogeographical range of these groups along the entire northern Gondwanan margin during the latest Cretaceous,” the researchers wrote in the journal. “Moreover, given the extreme paucity of coeval occurrences elsewhere, the Saudi Arabian fossils provide a tantalizing glimpse into dinosaurian assemblage diversity within the region.”