Dinosaurs of Africa

W. B. Sattler found the most interesting African dinosaurs in 1907 near Tendaguru Hill, Tanzania (in what was then German East Africa). Berlin paleontologists Werner Janensch and Edwin Hennig led an expedition to the site. From 1909 to 1912, several hundred untrained native workers toiled in the hot, humid climate to excavate the deep bone-pits. They crated and hand-carried thousands of bones, some weighing hundreds of pounds, cross-country to the port of Lindi for shipment to Berlin.

One spectacular result was the 40-foot-tall skeleton of Brachiosaurus brancai, which now stands in the East Berlin Natural History Museum. Assembled from the bones of several animals, it is the tallest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world. Also found were skeletons of the spiny-plated dinosaur Kentrosaurus and remains of the huge plant-eaters Barosaurus africanus and Dicraeosaurus. The Tendaguru finds resembled the dinosaurs discovered in the western United States. This proved that the same kinds of dinosaurs (though not the same species) lived throughout the world during the Late Jurassic.

After World War I, the English continued the work at Tendaguru. By 1929, work at Tendaguru ceased. Recently, paleontologists have returned to the region to continue the search for dinosaurs.

In the autumn of 1912, word of a find of large dinosaur bones reached Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach at the University of Munich. R. Markgraf had discovered the bones at the Baharia Oasis in Egypt. The bones belonged to a new meat-eating dinosaur, Spinosaurus, which had a six-foot-high sail on its back. Later surveys of the region uncovered more dinosaur bones. World War I ended German field work in Egypt.

In the early 1930s, Stromer wrote up three Egyptian dinosaurs: Aegyptosaurus, a giant plant-eater; Bahariasaurus, a giant meat-eater rivaling Tyrannosaurus; and Carcharodontosaurus, a smaller carnivore. Unfortunately, a bombing raid during World War II destroyed Stromer's specimens, including some that had not been described.

From the late 19th century until the 1950s, French paleontologists studied the dinosaurs of Morocco, Algeria, and Madagascar. In 1896, Charles Déperet had described a long-necked herbivore, Lapparentosaurus, and a large carnivore, Majungasaurus, from Madagascar. After World War II, Albert F. de Lapparent and Réné Lavocat described several new dinosaurs from Morocco and the Sahara. The most curious was Rebbachisaurus, a huge plant-eater with vertebrae nearly five feet tall. The animal may have resembled Apatosaurus with a tall ridge or sail along its back.