Ouranosaurus (Brave lizard)
Ouranosaurus (Brave lizard)
Named By : Philippe Taquet - 1976
Diet : Herbivore
Size : Estimated 7 meters long
Type of Dinosaur : Euornithopod
Type Species : O. nigeriensis (type)
Found in : Africa, Niger - Echkar Formation. Specimens also known from other locations in Africa
When it Lived : Early Cretaceous, 115-100 million years ago
Ouranosaurus was a genus consisting of herbivorous, basal hadrosauriform dinosaurs. It lived in the Aptian stage during the Early Cretaceous period of modern-day Niger. Ouranosaurus was approximately 7 to 8.3 meters (23 to 27 feet) in length. Two complete fossils of Ouranosaurus were discovered in the Elrhaz Formation and Gadoufaoua deposits in Agadez (Niger) in 1965, 1970, and a third, unidentified specimen was found in the Koum Formation in Cameroon. Philippe Taquet, a French paleontologist, gave the animal its name in 1976. The type species was Ouranosaurus Nigeriensis. Although ourane is the Tuareg name of the desert monitor, the name is a combination from the Arabic word “courage” as well as the country of discovery.
Filippo Bertozzo, Fabio Marco Dalla Vecchia, Matteo Fabbri, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Between 1965 and 1972, five French palaeontological expeditions were conducted in the Gadoufaoua area of the Sahara Desert in Niger. They were led by Philippe Taquet, a French Palaeontologist. These deposits are from GAD 5, which is a layer in Elrhaz Formation’s upper Tegama Group. It was deposited during Aptian Stage of the Early Cretaceous. Eight iguanodontian specimens of iguanodontia were found at the “niveau des Innocents”, east of Emechedoui’s wells, during the first expedition. It lasted from January to February 1965. Two additional skeletons were found 7 km (4.3 miles) southeast of Elrhaz, in the “Camp des deux Arbres”, locality. These were assigned the field numbers GDF 300 & GDI 381. Both were found during the February-April 1996 expedition. The former contained a fragmented skeleton and the latter, a skeleton that was nearly complete, but it was not completely preserved. They were then brought to Paris’ Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, where they were processed. GDF 381 was reclassified with the number MNHN GDF1700. Later, it was described as the holotype for the new taxon Lurdusaurus Arenatus in 1999. The third expedition didn’t find any additional iguanodontian material. However, the fourth expedition in January-March 1970 found a partially articulated, almost complete skeleton, just 4 km (2.25 mi) from the “niveau des Innocents” location. It was also given the fieldnumber GDF 381. The fifth expedition, which took this specimen to the MNHN in 1972, collected it. After a second French-Italian expedition, led by Taquet, and Giancarlo Ligabue, an Italian paleontologist, found a possible additional iguanodontian sample, Ligabue offered to donate the almost complete specimen and a skull of Sarcosuchus, to the Municipality of Venice. The municipality accepted the offer, and mounted the skeleton at the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venecia in 1975.
Taquet officially described the two complete specimens MNHN GDF 300, and MNHN GDF 381, which were collected from Ouranosaurus Nigerianis’ fourth and fifth expeditions in 1976. He also included a referred coracoid (MNHN GDF 312) and a femur (MNHN GDF 302). MNHN GDF300 was designated the holotype. It included a semi-articulated skull without the left maxilla and right quadratojugal, along with the articulars and almost the entire vertebral column. Forelimbs were missing a few hand bones and most of the right hindlimb, as well as a few bones from the left. Additional description of bones not preserved in the holotype was made from Taquet’s MNHN GDF 381 which was not listed as having been sent by Venice. However, this was confirmed in 2017 by Filippo Bertozzo and his colleagues. After being described, the holotype was cast and mounted and returned to Niger. The generic name Ouranosaurus has a double meaning. It is derived from Arabic, which means “valour”, “bravery” or “recklessness”, and also from the Tuareg language in Niger. This is the name they give the desert monitor. Niger is the country of discovery. The name refers to this specific species. Taquet had previously used the name “Ouranosaurus Nigeriensis” in a number of occasions, including in a public presentation in July 1972 of the skeleton MNHN GDF300, then again in September 1972 in an article, and again in December 1972 as a book. Only the book had any images that were associated with the name and no earlier mentions of the name had a diagnosis.