it began years ago with a change encounter

This fossil became an important clue to Ibrahim’s search.

Nizar Ibrahim was in a small town in Morocco in 2008. He’s a scientist who studies fossilsa paleontologist. He’s also a National Geographic Explorer.

He had just finished collecting fossils in the nearby Sahara. He wanted to talk to some local fossil hunters. Perhaps, they had fossils that might provide clues to the ones he had found.



boxes of fossils found in Morocco

Ibrahim was approached by a man who had a box of fossils he had collected. The man had a mustache. Ibrahim didn’t know how important that mustache would later become.

One fossil caught the explorer’s eye. It was long and flat. He thought that it might be part of a spine or a rib. He thought it might be important, so Ibrahim bought the box.

Years later, that fossil would lead him on a journey. He would discover one of the oddest dinosaurs that ever lived.

Ibrahim used the fossils that had been found to piece together an unknown dinosaur.

Picturing the Past

Ibrahim uses the scientific process to piece together the past. He studies bones and observes their shape. Where were they found? What part of the animal did they come from? He asks questions to form a hypothesis, or explanation, for how these ancient animals used to live.

When Ibrahim looks out across the Sahara, he pictures what it looked like 95 million years ago. Instead of sand, he sees rivers and swamps. There were giant turtles, huge crocodiles, and fish the size of cars. Three of the world’s largest meat-eating dinosaurs walked on land.

Searching for Spinosaurus took hard work and perseverance.

Ibrahim and team members study part of the tail of Spinosaurus.

Something Urgent

One day, Ibrahim received a message from some paleontologists in Italy. They described some fossils they thought Ibrahim would want to see.

When he arrived, several fossils were laid out for him. The long, flat bones were in the basement of a museum. They were thought to have come from Morocco. They looked like the fossil he bought from the stranger years ago.

These bones reminded Ibrahim of something else, too. As a child, he had seen drawings and photos of a dino in a book. Could they be connected? He was starting to form a new hypothesis.

A Different Dinosaur

The bones Ibrahim remembered from the book had been discovered by a German scientist. He had uncovered these bones in the Sahara.

This dinosaur was bigger than T. rex. It had long jaws, sharp cone-shaped teeth, and a huge sail on its back. The scientist named it Spinosaurus.

Only two partial skeletons had ever been found. Both were destroyed during World War II. Only notes and old photos remained.

Ibrahim thought his fossil and the ones in Italy might be from Spinosaurus. He had to find that mustached-man!