An abelisaurid from the Late Cretaceous of Egypt: implications for theropod biogeography
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- Smith, J.B. & Lamanna, M.C. Naturwissenschaften (2006) 93: 242. doi:10.1007/s00114-006-0092-3
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Recent paleogeographic scenarios postulate the isolation of continental Africa during the Late Cretaceous. The absence of abelisaurid theropods from Upper Cretaceous African strata was offered as support of hypothesized African isolation with the acknowledgement that the paucity of African abelisaurids may be mostly an issue of sampling. Here we report on a shed theropod tooth from the Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian, ∼70 Ma) Duwi Formation of Egypt. The tooth was referred to the Malagasy abelisaurid “Megalosaurus” crenatissimus (=Majungasauruscrenatissimus) in 1921. A discriminant function analysis was run to test for morphological congruence between the Egyptian tooth and the dentitions of 24 theropod taxa. The analysis correctly classified 96.6% of the teeth in the sample and assigned the tooth to Majungasaurus. As current paleogeographic reconstructions posit Madagascar had attained its current position relative to Africa before the Late Cretaceous, it is unlikely that the Egyptian tooth actually pertains to Majungasaurus. Nevertheless, its classification as an abelisaurid supports its referral to the clade. This tooth thus constitutes defensible evidence of an abelisaurid from the post-Cenomanian Cretaceous of mainland Africa. Combined with recent discoveries of abelisaurids in Niger and Morocco, the result indicates that Abelisauridae was a diverse group in Africa during the Cretaceous, existing in multiple places for at least ∼25 Ma and weakens support for hypotheses of an isolated Africa during the Late Cretaceous.