Spicomellus afer, is the earliest-known ankylosaur and the first ankylosaur to be named from Africa.

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Enhancing Understanding of Spicomellus afer, the Oldest Ankylosaur in Africa

Spicomellus afer, a remarkable armored herbivorous dinosaur, once roamed the land that is now Morocco during the Middle Jurassic period approximately 168 million years ago. Belonging to the Ankylosauria group, known for their defensive armor, this newly discovered species sheds light on the early evolution of these fascinating creatures. Here's what makes Spicomellus afer a groundbreaking find:

Ankylosaurs: A Diverse and Armored Group

Ankylosaurs are a diverse group of herbivorous dinosaurs distinguished by their armor. They diverged from their sister-taxon, Stegosauria, in the Early or Middle Jurassic, but our knowledge of their fossil record during this time remains limited.

First Ankylosaur in Africa

Spicomellus afer marks the first-ever discovery of an ankylosaur in Africa. This finding expands our understanding of the geographic distribution of ankylosaurs and their presence in different regions during the Jurassic period.

Unprecedented Armor

The fossilized remains of Spicomellus afer provide a unique glimpse into its defensive adaptations. Unlike other ankylosaurs, this specimen reveals a series of spikes attached to its rib, which were likely covered by a layer of keratin, rather than being fused to the bone. This distinctive feature sets Spicomellus afer apart from any other known species, making it truly unparalleled in the animal kingdom.

Filling Gaps in the Fossil Record

The discovery of Spicomellus afer fills a significant gap in the fossil record of Ankylosauria. It suggests that shortly after their evolution, ankylosaurs quickly spread across the globe, indicating a global distribution of these armored dinosaurs during the Jurassic period. Furthermore, it hints at the existence of additional undiscovered armored dinosaur fossils in the Jurassic era of the supercontinent Gondwana.

Insights into Stegosaur-Ankylosaur Interactions

The presence of Spicomellus afer and the previously discovered Adratiklit boulahfa, the oldest stegosaur, at the same Moroccan site challenges a previous theory. It questions the belief that ankylosaurs outcompeted stegosaurs and led to their extinction. The coexistence of both clades in Jurassic ecosystems suggests a prolonged overlap of over 20 million years, indicating that factors other than competition with ankylosaurs may have contributed to the decline of stegosaurs in the Early Cretaceous.

By unraveling the story of Spicomellus afer, this groundbreaking discovery not only expands our knowledge of ankylosaurs but also challenges existing theories about the interactions between different dinosaur groups. With Morocco proving to be a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils, further exploration in this region may unveil more ancient secrets waiting

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