69-Million-Year-Old T. Rex Cousins Found Among Africa’s Last Dinosaurs

It had a bulldog snout and even shorter arms.


Rachael Funnell


Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Digital Content Producer

t rex cousin

Their discovery reveals the diversity among Morocco’s dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous.

Image credit: Andrey Atuchin

Two new dinosaur species have been described by scientists in Morocco, dating back to the period just before an asteroid wiped out 90 percent of life on Earth 66 million years ago. They were primitive cousins of the famous Tyrannosaurus rex, only with bulldog snouts and even tinier arms. Bless.

Dating back to the end of the Cretaceous, they were retrieved from the upper Maastrichtian of Morocco, North Africa, just outside of Casablanca. Both belong to the Abelisauridae, a family of carnivorous dinosaurs that walked on stocky legs and had small forelimbs, with perhaps the most famous example being the ridiculous twirling arms of the abelisaurid, Carnotaurus.


The new species were identified from a foot bone of a predator that would’ve been around 2.5 meters (8 feet) tall, found near the town of Sidi Dauoi. A second specimen – the shin bone of a carnivore that stretched up to 5 meters (15 feet) in length – was found near Sidi Chennane.

One of the most surprising things about the discoveries is that they were made in what used to be a marine bed.

“It’s a shallow, tropical sea full of plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, and sharks,” said study lead Dr Nick Longrich, from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, in a statement. “It’s not exactly a place you’d expect to find a lot of dinosaurs. But we’re finding them.”

Only a few dinosaur fossils have been retrieved from the ancient marine bed, but among them researchers have discovered a remarkably diverse cast of species. So far they account for five different species, including duckbilled dinosaurs and long-necked titanosaurs.


Now, two new abelisaurs join a much larger relative, Chenanisaurus barbaricus, which in life was a fierce predator that was slightly smaller than T. rex. It’s been argued that diversity was dying out in the lead-up to the devastating asteroid strike 66 million years ago, but the discovery of so many species shows things were more diverse than anticipated in the final days of the dinosaurs – in Morocco, at least.

And the best bit? There’s more to come.

“We have other fossils as well, but they’re currently under study,” Longrich continued. “So we can’t say much about them at the moment, except that this was an amazingly diverse dinosaur fauna.”

The study is published in the journal Cretaceous Research.


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