Nigersaurus‭ (‬Lizard from Niger‭)

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Nigersaurus‭ (‬Lizard from Niger‭)

Phonetic : Nee-jer-sore-us.

Named By : Sereno,‭ ‬Beck,‭ ‬Dutheil,‭ ‬Larsson,‭ ‬Lyon,‭ ‬Moussa,‭ ‬Sadleir,‭ ‬Sidor,‭ ‬Varricchio,‭ ‬G.P.‭ ‬Wilson and J.‭ ‬A.‭ ‬Wilson‭ ‬-‭ ‬1999

Diet : Herbivore

Size : Estimated 9 – 15 meters long

Type of Dinosaur : Sauropod

Type Species : N.‭ ‬taqueti (Type)

Found in : Africa,‭ ‬Niger,‭ ‬Elrhaz Formation

When it Lived : Early Cretaceous, 121-99 million years ago

Nigersaurus, a genus rebbachisauridsauropod dinosaur, is a genus. It lived in the middle Cretaceous period (115 to 105 millions years ago). It was found in the Elrhaz Formation, Gadoufaoua in the Republic of Niger. This dinosaur’s fossils were first discovered in 1976. However, it was only named Nigersaurus Taqueti in 1999 after more detailed remains were discovered and described. Named Nigersaurus taqueti, the specific name honors Philippe Taquet who discovered the first remains.

Nigersaurus mountKabacchi, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nigersaurus, a small sauropod, was approximately 9m (30ft) in length and had a shorter neck. It weighed in at 4 t (4.44 short tons), which is comparable to an elephant today. It had a skull that was extremely specialized for feeding. There were large fenestrae, and very thin bones. It had a broad muzzle, with over 500 teeth. These were replaced every 14 days. It is possible that the jaws were covered with a keratinous sheath. The tooth-bearing jaws of this tetrapod were not rotated in the same direction as the rest of the skull. This meant that its teeth were all located at the front, which is unusual among tetrapods. Although its skeleton was extremely pneumatized (filled with air spaces connected with air sacs), the limbs were strong.

Nigersaurus, along with its close relatives, are now grouped in the subfamily Rebbachisaurinae. This is a change from the earlier thought that Nigersaurinae was the name of the family Rebbachisauridae which is part the Sauropod superfamily Diplodocoidea. Nigersaurus probably browsed and ate with its head close the ground. Although the brain area that detects smell was not as developed, it was similar in size to other dinosaur brains. It is not clear if its head was held horizontally or downwards as other sauropods. It was likely to have lived in riparian habitats and ate soft plants such as angiosperms, horsetails, ferns, and horsetails. It is the most widespread fossil vertebrates in the area. It shared its habitat with large theropods as well as crocodylomorphs.

The remains of Nigersaurus were discovered by Philippe Taquet (French paleontologist) during an expedition to Republic of Niger in 1965-1972. They were then published in a 1976 paper. The common genus of the dinosaur was not well known until American paleontologist Paul Sereno discovered more material from other individuals during his expeditions in 1997 and 2000. Poor preservation of the remains of the genus resulted in a limited understanding. This is due to the fragile and highly pneumatic construction of the skull, skeleton and air sacs, which causes disarticulation. Some skull fossils could be seen through with a strong light beam because they were so thin. These specimens are the best known rebbachisaurid remains, as they have no intact skulls and no articulated skeletons.

Sereno and his colleagues first named Nigersaurus and detailed their description in 1999. This was based on the remains of recently discovered individuals. Jobaria, another Niger sauropod, was also mentioned in the same article. Nigersaurus, the genus that Nigersaurus is known as (“Niger reptile”), refers to the country it was found in. The specific name taqueti honors Taquet who was the first person to organize large-scale palaeontological expeditions into Niger. The partial skull and neck of the holotype specimen MNN GAD512 are missing. The same specimen was also used to refer to limb material and a shoulder blade (scapula) that were found nearby. These fossils can be found at the National Museum of Niger.

In 2005, Sereno and American paleontologist Jeffrey A. Wilson published the first detailed description and feeding adaptations of the skull. Sereno and his colleagues published a more detailed description in 2007 of the skeleton, drawing on a specimen that had been discovered ten years before. These fossils were presented to the National Geographic Society in Washington along with a reconstructed mount of the skeleton and a plastic model for the neck and head. Nigersaurus was called a “Mesozoic Cow” by the media. Sereno said that it was the most unique dinosaur he’d ever seen. Its physical appearance was likened to Darth Vader’s vacuum cleaner and Sereno compared it with a conveyor belt and sharpened keys on a piano.

Many Nigersaurus specimens still remain to be described from American and French expeditions. Similar teeth to Nigersaurus were found on the Isle of Wight, and in Brazil. However, it is not known if they belonged either to Nigersaurus relatives or to titanosaurs whose remains have been discovered in the area. The lower jaw of the titanosaur Antarctosaurus looks similar to Nigersaurus’s, but it may have evolved together.

Source: Wikipedia