Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Inhabitants of Algeria

Stories of dinosaurs have long fueled the imaginations of humans, with ongoing discoveries in different parts of the world providing more information on these gigantic prehistoric creatures and offering theories on what led to their extinction. Fossilized remains of dinosaurs have been found in a number of North African countries, including Algeria, with each discovery being important in piecing together the history of the various species of dinosaurs and their habitats.

Fossils of the genus Brachiosaurus of the family Brachiosauridae, were first discovered in the Grand River Canyon of western Colorado, United States, and were described in 1903 by American paleontologist Elmer S Riggs who declared it to be the largest known dinosaur at the time. In the early 1900s fossil remains were discovered in the Sahara Desert of eastern Algeria and were assigned in 1960 to the genus Brachiosaurus, with the species nougaredi distinguishing it from other dinosaurs in that genus, although there is some dispute as to whether this classification is correct. Fossils recovered from the site included a sacrum, some phalanges and some of the left metacarpals. The sacrum, a triangular bone at the base of the spine in the back part of the pelvis, measured a length of 130 centimeters for four vertebrae, being exceptionally large compared with Brachiosaurus species discovered elsewhere.

Named for the country where it was first discovered, fossil remains of the Nigersaurus have been found in Niger, Tunisia and southern Algeria. It was first described by French paleontologist Philippe Taquet in 1976.The skeleton and skull of this plant-eating dinosaur is filled with air spaces, making it light and somewhat delicate and not able to withstand the ravages of time and the elements, and it was only in 2005 that a fuller description of the skull and feeding habits of the Nigersaurus was made. Scientists Paul Sereno and Jeffrey A. Wilson noted that the Nigersaurus had as many as 500 to 600 teeth set in up to 50 columns along the front edges of the jaw. As one set of teeth was worn down by the dinosaur’s fibrous diet, it was immediately replaced by another set, which most likely happened on a monthly basis.

Fossils of more than 36 different types of dinosaurs have been discovered in Algeria, including the largest meat-eating dinosaur known to have lived on the Earth, the Carcharodontosaurus saharicus. The study of these amazing creatures is both fascinating and complex, opening a window to the prehistoric past of this North African country.