Duckbill dinosaur fossils discovered in Africa for the first time

Scientists working in Morocco have discovered the very first apostles of a duckbilled dinosaur ever found in Africa. The findings suggest that the dinosaurs crossed hundreds of kilometers of open water to reach Africa after evolving in North America and migrating to South America and then Asia, Europe, and Africa. A study on the findings was recently published in Cretaceous Research.

The new dinosaur is dubbed Ajnabia odysseus, and the fossils were found in Moroccan rocks dated to the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago. The fossilized creature was a member of the duckbilled dinosaur family, which are plant-eating dinosaurs up to 15 meters long. However, the newly discovered fossils show a creature much smaller than other members of the family at only three meters long.

Researchers say it was approximately the size of a pony. In the Late Cretaceous, Africa was an island with deep water between where the dinosaur evolved and where the fossils found. One researcher on the team who discovered the fossils said that it was "about the last thing in the world you would expect." He likened to find in the fossil in Casablanca to funding a kangaroo in Scotland.

The study of the fossil found that it belonged to a subfamily of duckbills known as Lambeosaurs that had bony head crests. That dinosaur subfamily evolved in North America and migrated via a land bridge to Asia. Scientists believe the dinosaurs had to cross hundreds of kilometers of open water by rafting on debris, floating, or swimming to colonize Africa.

Fossils of the dinosaurs were found in river deposits and marine rocks; they may have swum the distance. The name of the new dinosaur fossil pays homage to the sea crossing. Ajnabia translates to foreigner, and Odysseus refers to the Greek seafarer.