First dinosaurs discovered in Saudi Arabia

Adaffa Sauropod Vertebra
One of the exceptionally rare tail vertebrae from Saudi Arabia’s first described giant titanosaurid sauropod. This dinosaur was probably in excess of 20 m long when alive.
Image: Tim Holland
Source: Kronosaurus Korner, Richmond

Media contact: Alex Dook
adook@museum.vic.gov.au

An international team of scientists from Uppsala University, Museum Victoria, Monash University, and the Saudi Geological Survey have uncovered the first record of dinosaurs from Saudi Arabia.

What is now dry desert was once a beach littered with the bones and teeth of ancient marine reptiles and dinosaurs.

A string of vertebrae from the tail of a huge “Brontosaurus-like” sauropod, together with teeth from a carnivorous theropod represent the first formally identified dinosaur fossils from Arabia, and were found in the north-western part of the Kingdom along the coast of the Red Sea.

The 72-million year-old remains were discovered during excavations conducted by a team of scientists working under the auspices of the Saudi Geological Survey, Jeddah. 

The dinosaur finds were recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE and jointly authored by participating researchers from Sweden, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

Dr Benjamin Kear, based at Uppsala University in Sweden and lead author of the study said: “Dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare in the Arabian Peninsula, with only a handful of highly fragmented bones documented so far.

“This discovery is important not only because of where the remains were found, but also because of the fact that we can actually identify them. Indeed, these are the first taxonomically recognisable dinosaurs reported from the Arabian Peninsula.”

Dr Tom Rich from Museum Victoria in Australia concurred: “Dinosaur remains from the Arabian Peninsula and the area east of the Mediterranean Sea are exceedingly rare because sedimentary rocks deposited in streams and rivers during the Age of Dinosaurs are rare, particularly in Saudi Arabia itself.”

When these dinosaurs were alive, the Arabian landmass was largely underwater and formed the north-western coastal margin of the African continent.

“The hardest fossil to find is the first one. Knowing that they occur in a particular area and the circumstances under which they do, makes finding more fossils significantly less difficult,” said Dr Rich.

The teeth and bones are approximately 72 million years old.

Two types of dinosaur were described from the assemblage, a bipedal meat-eating abelisaurid distantly related to Tyrannosaurus but only about six metres long, and a plant-eating titanosaur perhaps up to 20 metres in length.

Similar dinosaurs have been found in North Africa, Madagascar and as far away as South America.

Museum Victoria Public Relations contact:
Alex Dook, 8341 7141 / 0478 348 880, adook@museum.vic.gov.au

For all general public enquiries, contact the museum's Discovery Centre

Image Gallery

Adaffa Theropod Tooth