In the footsteps of Spinosaurus in the Moroccan desert


REPORTING – This mastodon lived mainly in water, a few hundred million years ago. The bones of one of these largest known predatory dinosaurs were discovered in the Moroccan desert by an expedition of extraordinary paleontologists, which revolutionized the image of Épinal of these extinct species.

He spent a large part of his time in the water. A swimming dinosaur. This is the discovery that Nizar Ibrahim made one morning in 2013, observing the skeleton that appeared under his ice ax, deep in the Moroccan desert. Trapped in rock, fossilized, bone debris, teeth, cartilages indicated that the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus moved in water, disappeared … Like him. During the primary era, which dates back about 500 million years, the territory identified today as Morocco was home to a sea and rivers. It is therefore not surprising that the bones, including parts of the skull, spine, pelvis and limbs, discovered over the last decade, retain freshwater sediments from this Moroccan Sahara.

Examination of the tail of a spinosaurus, at the University of Casablanca, just after its discovery, in July 2019. Paolo Verzone / Agence Vu.

Moreover, all around, at Kem Kem, a vast semi-desert tabular rocky plateau on the Moroccan-Algerian border, the rocks keep traces of what was once a hydrographic network where huge fish swam. As for imagining that an aquatic dinosaur flourished there, this is an unexpected paleontological discovery! The fossil of the skeleton of this spinosaurus, unearthed on this very site, is the most complete to date.

Balance problem

Each fragment unequivocally indicates that this animal, a strange juggernaut weighing up to 20 tons, lived in an aquatic environment, making it the first known dinosaur capable of swimming. “Revealing the existence of this creature allows us to change our perception of dinosaurs “, explains paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, who discovered it while working for the University of Chicago (Illinois, United States). Contacted in England last week, he analyzes: The fact that it is a river monster destroys the dogma we had about these animals. “ The singularity of the spinosaurus, which exceeds the largest T-Rex specimen by 3 meters in length, is reflected in its silhouette: endowed with a very long neck and a thin head that extends it, the front of its body looks like that of a crocodile. Its long, narrow muzzle has about twenty sharp teeth. On the other side, at the end of its long tail, the bony bumps that allow adjacent vertebrae to interlock disappear to let the tip wave back and forth. Thus the animal managed to propel itself in the water. This huge fin, a kind of flexible oar, was discovered during the last expedition, in 2019.

A Moroccan member of the team works a limestone slab in Gara Sbaa (Morocco), in July 2019. Paolo Verzone / Agence Vu.

As it evolved, the spinosaurus learned to move around a large river ecosystem and hunt huge fish. Among the characteristics of aquatic adaptation observed on these 97 million-year-old bones, the researchers note the presence of a nose located on the top of the head to prevent water from entering. Relatively long front legs and

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