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A Large Abelisauroid Theropod Dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Libya

  • Joshua B. Smith (a1), Matthew C. Lamanna (a2), Achmed S. Askar (a3), Khalid A. Bergig (a4), Sefau O. Tshakreen (a4), Miloud M. Abugares (a4) and D. Tab Rasmussen (a5)...

Despite increasingly intensive paleontological sampling, Cretaceous terrestrial vertebrates from continental Africa remain relatively poorly known, frustrating efforts to characterize paleoecosystems in the region, as well as the paleobiogeography of the southern continents during this interval. Here we describe the partial skeleton of a large-bodied theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous (early Aptian, ~125-120 Ma) of Libya. The specimen consists of associated elements (two incomplete dorsal vertebrae, a proximal caudal centrum, a partial proximal caudal neural arch, the distal right femur, and the mostly complete right tibia) and is referable to the widespread ceratosaurian clade Abelisauroidea. The discovery adds to the growing record of abelisauroids from mainland Africa, and firmly establishes the presence of the clade on the continent prior to its final separation from South America. Indeed, the age of the Libyan theropod predates or is penecontemporaneous with the accepted timing of fragmentation of most major Gondwanan landmasses, supporting the hypothesis that abelisauroids could have dispersed throughout the southern continents before land connections between these areas were severed. Moreover, the considerable size of the Libyan form challenges assertions that abelisauroids were ecologically subordinate to basal tetanuran theropods in Early and middle Cretaceous paleoenvironments of Gondwana.

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