Aegyptosaurus: The Mighty Dinosaur of Ancient Africa

Aegyptosaurus in lush North African Cretaceous habitat.

Aegyptosaurus was a large plant-eating dinosaur that lived in what is now Africa, around 95 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period. It was one of the first dinosaurs to be discovered in Egypt, and its name means ‘Egypt’s lizard’. It had a long neck, a long tail, and a small head, like most sauropods. Its few known fossils were destroyed during World War II, and only some fragments remain.

Aegyptosaurus reaching for treetop vegetation, side view.

Basic Information

Time PeriodLate Cretaceous (100-94 million years ago)
LengthAbout 15 meters (49 feet) or more
WeightAbout 7 metric tons (7.7 short tons) or more
LocationsEgypt, Niger

Description of Aegyptosaurus

Historical Context

Aegyptosaurus was first discovered in 1912 by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, who also named and described it in 1932. The fossils of Aegyptosaurus were found in the Bahariya Formation of Egypt, which gives the dinosaur its name. Aegyptosaurus is known from several partial skeletons and isolated bones, mostly from juvenile or small adult specimens. However, some fragmentary specimens suggest that adult Aegyptosaurus could have grown to enormous sizes comparable to the largest known dinosaurs, like Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus. Aegyptosaurus is one of the last surviving sauropods, as its fossils date back to the end of the Cretaceous Period, just before the mass extinction that wiped out most of the dinosaurs.

Hand-drawn Aegyptosaurus with faded archaeological notes.

Physical Attributes

Aegyptosaurus was a large quadrupedal herbivore with a long neck, a long tail, and relatively long limbs. Its body was at least partly covered in bony armor-like structures called osteoderms. Its skull was small compared to its body, with a short snout and spoon-shaped teeth adapted for cropping low-growing vegetation⁶. On its neck and back, it had tall neural spines that supported a hump or a sail. These structures could have been used for thermoregulation, display, or communication. Its tail was long and whip-like, and it may have used it for defense against predators.

Feeding Habits

As a herbivore, Aegyptosaurus fed on plants, mainly ferns, cycads, conifers, and ginkgoes that grew in the ridge habitat of Africa during the Late Cretaceous. Unlike some other sauropods that could reach high branches with their long necks, Aegyptosaurus probably browsed on plants that were closer to the ground. It may have used its strong neck muscles to pull down branches or strip leaves from stems. It is possible that Aegyptosaurus swallowed stones (gastroliths) to help grind up the plant material in its stomach.

Unique Features

The most distinctive feature of Aegyptosaurus was its large size and late appearance in the fossil record. Aegyptosaurus was one of the largest dinosaurs ever to walk on Earth, rivaling or exceeding the size of other giant sauropods like Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus. Aegyptosaurus was also one of the few sauropods known to have lived in Africa during the Late Cretaceous, after a nearly 30-million year absence of sauropods from the continent. Aegyptosaurus probably represents an immigrant from South America that crossed a land bridge during a period of low sea level.

Movement and Speed

Aegyptosaurus was a quadrupedal dinosaur, meaning it walked on all four legs. It had short but powerful limbs that supported its heavy body. Its front legs were slightly shorter than its hind legs, giving it a sloping posture. Its feet had five toes each, with claws on the first three toes. Aegyptosaurus was not a fast runner, but it could probably move at a moderate pace when needed. Its leg bones were more sturdy than those of today’s white rhinoceros, which can gallop at speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour).

Cultural Impact

Aegyptosaurus is not very well known among the general public, but it has appeared in some books, documentaries, video games, and toys that feature dinosaurs. Some examples are:

  • The book The Complete Dinosaur (2012), edited by M.K. Brett-Surman, Thomas R. Holtz Jr., and James O. Farlow, which includes a chapter on Aegyptosaurus by Peng Guangzhou.
  • The documentary Dinosaur Planet (2003), produced by Discovery Channel, which features Aegyptosaurus in the episode “”Alpha’s Egg”” as a prey item for a Sinraptor.
  • The video game Jurassic World Alive (2018), developed by Ludia, which allows players to collect and battle with various dinosaurs, including Aegyptosaurus.
  • The toy line Jurassic World Dino Rivals (2019), produced by Mattel, which includes an Aegyptosaurus figure with movable head and tail.
Herbivorous Aegyptosaurus with long sauropod neck alongside a human for scale.

Interesting Facts

  • Aegyptosaurus is related to some of the most famous dinosaurs, such as Diplodocus and Brontosaurus, which belong to the same group of sauropods called diplodocoids.
  • Aegyptosaurus lived in a diverse and rich ecosystem that included other sauropods, such as Paralititan and Rebbachisaurus, as well as theropods, such as Carcharodontosaurus and Spinosaurus.
  • Aegyptosaurus is one of the few sauropods that have osteoderms, which are bony plates or spikes embedded in the skin. Osteoderms are more common in other groups of dinosaurs, such as stegosaurs and ankylosaurs.
  • Aegyptosaurus may have lived up to 100 years old, based on the growth rings in its bones.

Related Dinosaurs

  • Paralititan: A close relative of Aegyptosaurus that also had osteoderms and a hump or a sail on its back, but was much larger and lived in swampy habitats.
  • Argentinosaurus: A distant cousin of Aegyptosaurus that was one of the largest dinosaurs ever, with an estimated length of 35 meters (115 feet) and weight of 73 metric tons (80 short tons).
  • Brachiosaurus: A primitive sauropod that had a long neck and a short tail, and was one of the tallest dinosaurs, reaching up to 13 meters (43 feet) at the shoulder.
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