Muscat: A remarkable assemblage of dinosaur fossils was recently found in Oman. A team of French, Omani and Dutch researchers presented their discoveries in PLoS ONE scientific journal.

The bones represent the first evidence of hadrosaurian dinosaurs from Arabia, reported Oman News Agency.

The occurrence of these so-called ‘duck-billed dinosaurs’ in the region is surprising. “Hadrosaurs, according to the traditional understanding, were mainly limited to the northern continents: North America, Europe, Asia,” Eric Buffetaut, lead author of the study says, “Their presence much further south, in this part of the world, was previously unknown.”

The fossils were found in the foothills of the Omani Mountains, which was a lush delta some 70 million years ago, when the hadrosaurs roamed the area. “Several elements of the hind leg were discovered, as well as vertebrae,” Mohammad Al Kindi, a geologist and co-author of the study says.

The study is supported by the Geological Society of Oman and the Oman Botanic Garden.

Dinosaur remains have been found in Oman before, also from the Al Khoudh area near the capital Muscat.

“The rocks in which these bones are fossilised were deposited by a fast-flowing river,” palaeontologist and co-author of the study Anne Schulp explains. “This means we hardly find complete bones, let alone complete skeletons. We have to piece back together the puzzle of the Omani dinosaurs from the tiniest, and often frustratingly damaged and beaten-up bone fragments”.

How exactly the hadrosaurs made their way to Oman provides an interesting puzzle. “They can hardly be considered to be the result of local evolution on the Afro-Arabian plate, because it is generally accepted that the origin of hadrosaurs lies on the northern continents,” Buffetaut adds.

“If a local origin is dismissed, the presence of hadrosaurs in Oman around that time needs to be explained by dispersal.

”At the end of the Cretaceous Period when these hadrosaurs lived, the Afro-Arabian continent was separated from the northern continents by the wide Tethys Ocean. “How these dinosaurs managed to cross this barrier is the interesting question this discovery provides us with,” a geologist and discoverer of the fossils described in the paper, Axel Hartman, adds. “We took a closer look at the string of islands some geologists have reconstructed in this now-disappeared Tethys Ocean. These islands may have provided the necessary ‘stepping stones’ for the hadrosaurs to make their way from Eurasia to Oman.”