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Scientists working in Saudi Arabia have formally identified the first dinosaur fossils ever to have come from the nation.
The find is not only a rarity for Saudi Arabia, but for the entire Arabian Peninsula, where to-date only a handful of bone fragments have been found. Like all other dinosaur bones found in the region, the specimens from Saudi Arabia were fragments as well, excavated in the northwest part of the country along the coast of the Red Sea.
The bones were identified as a string of vertebrae from the tail of a Brontosaurus-like sauropod and teeth from a carnivorous dinosaur, likely a theropod. Scientists dated the fossils to be about 72 million years old, placing them from the Late Cretaceous era. The theropod is thought to be a 6-meter-long bi-pedal meat-eater distantly related to Tyrannosaurus rex, while the sauropod was a plant-eating titanosaur that may have been up to 20 meters in length.
The 72-million-year-old fossils were discovered in the Adaffa formation, a pile of sandstone and conglomerates (pebble-rich rocks) deposited by streams and rivers during the Late Cretaceous Period.
During this time, Arabia had not yet separated from Africa and was bounded on the east by the Tethys Ocean. Parts of Arabia were underwater when the bones were buried in the sand. (On earlier fossil hunts, Kear found Cretaceous marine fossils in Saudi Arabia, such as plesiosaurs and mosasaurs, sharks and turtles.)