Nigersaurus is a genus of rebbachisaurid sauropod dinosaur. It lived during the middle Cretaceous period, about 115 to 105 million years ago. Fossils of this dinosaur were first described in 1976, but it was only named Nigersaurus taqueti in 1999. The genus name means ‘Niger reptile’ and the specific name honours the palaeontologist Philippe Taquet.
About Nigersaurus in brief
Nigersaurus is a genus of rebbachisaurid sauropod dinosaur that lived during the middle Cretaceous period, about 115 to 105 million years ago. It was discovered in the Elrhaz Formation in an area called Gadoufaoua, in the Republic of Niger. Fossils of this dinosaur were first described in 1976, but it was only named Nigersaurus taqueti in 1999, after further and more complete remains were found and described. The genus name means ‘Niger reptile’ and the specific name honours the palaeontologist Philippe Taquet, who discovered the first remains. It lived in a riparian habitat, and its diet probably consisted of soft plants, such as ferns, horsetails, and angiosperms. Its skull was very specialised for feeding, with large fenestrae and thin bones. It had a wide muzzle filled with more than 500 teeth, which were replaced at a rapid rate: around every 14 days. The region of its brain that detected smell was underdeveloped, although its brain size was comparable to that of other dinosaurs. It weighed around 4 t, comparable to a modern elephant. It is one of the most common fossil vertebrates found in the area, and shared its habitat with other dinosaurian megaherbivores, as well as large theropods and crocodylomorphs. The holotype specimen consists of a partial skull and neck, and a scapula found nearby were also referred to the same specimen. These fossils are housed at the National Museum of Niger, and are the most complete known rebbach isaurid remains.
Teeth similar to those found on the Isle of Wight and Brazil have been assigned to the titanosaur genus Antarctanosaurus. A lower jaw has been found to the lower jaw of a lower jaw titanosaurus, whose remains have been found in Brazil, but its identity is unknown. It has been dubbed a ‘Mesozoic cow’ in the press, and compared to Darth Vader and a vacuum cleaner cleaner with a conveyor belt and sharpened piano keys. It may have been a browser, and fed with its head close to the ground. Unlike other tetrapods, the tooth-bearing bones of its jaws were rotated transversely relative to the rest of the skull, so that all of its teeth were located far to the front. There has been debate on whether its head was habitually held downwards, or horizontally like other sauropods. The fossils were so thin that a strong light beam was visible through them, in turn causing disarticulation of the fossils. No intact skulls or articulated skeletons have ever been found, and these specimens represent the mostcomplete known reb Bachisaurids. Nigersosaurus was named and described in more detail by Paul Sereno and colleagues only in 1999. The specific name ‘Taqueti’ is a reference to the country where it was discovered, and the genus name honours Taquet.