The first dinosaur fossils belonged to a plant-eating titanosaur and a sharp-toothed theropod, scientists reported Dec. 26 in the journal PLOS One. The first confirmed fossils were found in Saudi Arabia.
Dinosaur fossils have been a rare find in the Arabian Peninsula; with previous finds mainly including teeth and bone fragments of similar species from Jordan, Oman and Lebanon, researchers report.
“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,” Benjamin Kear, lead study author, said in a statement. “These are the first taxonomically recognizable dinosaurs reported from the Arabian Peninsula,” said Kear, a paleobiologist at Uppsala University in Sweden.The 72-million-year-old first dinosaur fossils were discovered in the Adaffa formation, a pile of sandstone and conglomerates (pebble-rich rocks) deposited by streams and rivers during the Late Cretaceous Period per Fox News. At that point in time, Arabia had not yet separated from Africa and was bounded on the east by the Tethys Ocean. When the bones were buried in the sand, parts of Arabia were underwater.
Kear and his team carefully excavated a sandstone outcrop of the Adaffa formation about 7 miles northeast of Al Khuraybah in Saudi Arabia. There, they uncovered two theropod teeth and several vertebrae.
The distinct patterns on the teeth lead the team to link the chompers to carnivorous abelisaurs, a dinosaur family common in North Africa at the time. Abelisaurs grew to be about 20 feet tall in height and were bipedal, as were Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The vertebrae appeared similar to those from titanosaurs, massive sauropods that lived on many continents, including both South America and Africa. Titanosaurs grew up to 65 feet long.
“Dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare in the Arabian Peninsula, with only a handful of highly fragmented bones documented this far. Indeed, these are the first taxonomically recognizable dinosaurs reported from the Arabian Peninsula,” Benjamin Kear, study’s lead author, said.