Scientists have described a new species of stegosaurus and dated it to 168 million years ago, which makes it the oldest known member of that group of dinosaurs ever known. Named Adratiklit boulahfa, it is also the first stegosaurus to be found in North Africa. Its remains were discovered in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco, and the study describing it was led by Dr Susannah Maidment of the London s Natural History Museum (NHM).
The scientists believe it is not only a new species but also belongs to a new genus. The name is derived from the words used by the Berber (an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa) for mountains (Adras), lizard (tiklit) and and the area where the specimen was found. (Boulahfa).
Paleontologists studied a handful of vertebrae and an upper arm bone, all that was left of it when it was found. Adratiklit s closest relatives is the European stegosaurus Dacentrurus, NHM said in a statement.
The Adratiklit was armoured and herbivorous, and lived on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which later split into Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica. Most stegosaurus remains so far have been found in the northern hemisphere .
However, this may not mean that stegosaurs were uncommon in Gondwana. It may be due to the fact that Gondwana rock formations have been subject to far fewer excavations and detailed studies, Maidment said in the NHM statement.