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Groundbreaking Fossil Discovery Proves That Dinosaurs Traveled Across Oceans

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The discovery of a new fossil in Africa has led scientists to believe that dinosaurs once traveled hundreds of kilometers across oceans between the continent and North and South America. The fossils in question belong to Ajnabia Odysseus, a herbivorous dinosaur from the duckbill clan. The fossil was found in mines in Morrocco, and upon investigation, scientists have concluded that Ajnabia existed some 66 million years ago in the Cretaceous period and that they were tiny (about three meters) as compared to the regular 15 meters tall duckbill dinosaurs.

The idea that led scientists to believe that dinosaurs actually swam through oceans is the fact that duckbill dinosaurs initially came from North America. And since Africa was isolated by deep-sea during the late Cretaceous period, the only way for the Ajnabia to reach there is by crossing the waters. Experts are still fairly puzzled about the discovery. Nicholas Longrich, a senior lecturer at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, who led the study finds the knowledge so surprising that he calls it the ‘last thing you could expect’.

"It was completely out of place, like finding a kangaroo in Scotland. Africa was completely isolated by water -- so how did they get there?" Longrich said in a statement.

After probing into Ajnabia’s teeth and jaw structure, experts have found to belong to the Lambeosaurinae subfamily, a group of dinosaurs that evolved in North America, before spreading over a land bridge to Asia, and colonized Europe and then Africa. The duckbills are known for their large tales and powerful legs. Hence scientists say that it’s quite likely that using the force of their agile physique they crossed the open sea to reach the continent, by rafting on debris, floating, or swimming.

"Sherlock Holmes said, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth," said Longrich. "It was impossible to walk to Africa. These dinosaurs evolved long after continental drift split the continents, and we have no evidence of land bridges. The geology tells us Africa was isolated by oceans. If so, the only way to get there is by water."

This is the first time an ocean crossing has been suggested for dinosaurs, as per the team of researchers, led by the University of Bath with researchers from Spain, the US, France, and Morocco. Previously, studies have shown that mammals, including monkeys and rodents, have made long and treacherous sea crossings from continent to continent


Ocean crossings are rare, improbable events, but have been observed in historic times. In one case, green iguanas traveled between Caribbean islands during a hurricane borne on debris. In another, a tortoise from Seychelles floated hundreds of kilometers across the Indian Ocean to wash up in Africa.

“Over millions of years,” said Longrich, “Once-in-a-century events are likely to happen many times. Ocean crossings are needed to explain how lemurs and hippos got to Madagascar, or how monkeys and rodents crossed from Africa to South America.”

Dr. Nour-Eddine Jalil, from the Natural History Museum of Sorbonne University (France), said: “The succession of improbable events (crossing an ocean by a dinosaur, fossilization of a terrestrial animal in a marine environment) highlights the rarity of our find and therefore its importance.

“Ajnabia shows us that hadrosaurs have set foot on African land, telling us that ocean barriers are not always an insurmountable obstacle.”

Source: Cretaceous Journal