March 7, 2014

University of Chicago paleontologists Nizar Ibrahim and Paul Sereno, in collaboration with an international team of researchers, have published a detailed account of trace fossils (records of biological activity in the fossil record, such as footprints and burrows) found in the Cretaceous Kem Kem region of Morocco. The track localities were first identified on a University of Chicago expedition in 1995, and revisited in 2008, and include prints of plant eating ornithopod dinosaurs and large sauropods. The vast majority of the tracks, however, can be attributed to theropods, predatory dinosaurs such as the T. rex sized Carcharodontosaurus. This mirrors the abundance of remains of predatory animals in the body fossil record (teeth, claws and other bones). The international team, which also included former Sereno lab member Jeff Wilson (now University of Michigan) as well as David Varricchio (University of Montana), Didier Dutheil (Paris), David Martill (University of Portsmouth) and Moroccan researchers Lahssen Baidder and Samir Zouhri (Casablanca University), also described many types of trace fossils left behind by invertebrate animals such as sea anemone, crabs and worms. The paper, based in part on PhD research carried out by Ibrahim, provides a detailed view of the animals and environments found on the coast of Northern Africa in the Cretaceous, when the region was a large river system that came under increasing marine influence.

Rare dinosaur tracks and other trace fossils from the Sahara described in new paper Image

Nizar Ibrahim taking notes on the escarpment where the tracks have been found.The Kem Kem region is located on the western edge of the Sahara Desert. Photograph by Robert Loveridge.