Rebbachisaurus: Unveiling the Giant of Ancient Morocco

Venture into the world of dinosaurs, and you’ll find Rebbachisaurus, a remarkable yet often overlooked giant from the Late Cretaceous Period. Discovered in the rugged landscapes of Morocco, this sauropod challenges our understanding of the ancient world with its unique characteristics and mysterious past. While it may not be as famous as some of its carnivorous contemporaries, Rebbachisaurus holds a special place in the rich tapestry of dinosaur history.

Pronounced “re-bash-i-sore-us,” Rebbachisaurus was a herbivorous behemoth that roamed our planet around 99.6 to 93.5 million years ago. Its name, rooted in the heritage of the Aït Rebbach Berber tribe, reflects both its geographical origin and the fascinating era it lived in. The discovery of this dinosaur not only added a new dimension to our understanding of sauropods but also highlighted the diverse ecosystems of ancient Africa.

Rebbachisaurus Key Facts

Meaning of nameAït Rebbach Lizard
Type SpeciesRebbachisaurus garasbae
When it Lived100.5 to 93.5 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
Length46.0 to 85.3 feet
HeightApproximately 17.0 feet
Weight7.7 to 44.0 tons
MobilityAll four
First Discovery1948 by Rene Lavocat (first description in 1954)
Described byJeffrey Wilson and Ronan Allain (full description)
HolotypeMNHN-MRS 1958
Location of first findGara Sba, Morocco

Rebbachisaurus Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

Rebbachisaurus, a name that resonates with the rich cultural heritage of Morocco, is a testament to the diverse and widespread nature of sauropods. The etymology of its name is controversial and probably refers to the Ayt Khebbash, a moroccan tribe that was feared by the French authorities during the Protectorate period (1912-1956). Lavocat, who named the dinosaur in 1954, was a french native speaker and may have tried to capture the arabic sound to the closely related french spelling. Rebbachisaurus shall then be pronounced “khehb-bash-ee-sore-us”.

A lifelike illustration of Rebbachisaurus, a sauropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous period. The image depicts the dinosaur with its elongated neck, robust body, and distinctive tail. This quadrupedal herbivore is shown in a neutral pose, highlighting its significant size and unique physical characteristics. The illustration provides an accurate representation of Rebbachisaurus, emphasizing its adaptations and appearance.

In the grand tapestry of dinosaur taxonomy, this dinosaur finds its place in the Rebbachisauridae, under the group Sauropoda. These long-necked, herbivorous giants are known for their massive size and are among the largest animals to have ever walked the Earth. The type species, Rebbachisaurus garasbae, represents the genus Rebbachisaurus, and refers to the locality of the first fossil find, Gara Sbaa, which means ‘Lion Hill’ in Arabic (a local subspecies of Panthera leo inhabited the region until its extinction in the wild in the 1960s).

Rebbachisaurus garasbae lived during the Cenomanian (Late Cretaceous Period), dating back to about 100.5 to 93.5 million years ago. This era was a time of significant geological and climatic changes, which played a crucial role in the evolution and diversification of dinosaur species.


According to Wilsona and Allain (2015), the correct pronounciation is khehb-bash-ee-sore-us.

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

The journey to uncovering Rebbachisaurus began with Rene Lavocat’s pivotal discovery between October 1948 and January 1952. In the Kem Kem Beds at Gara Sbaa, Errachidia, Morocco, Lavocat unearthed the holotype of Rebbachisaurus garasbae, a collection of fossils that included ribs, a shoulder blade, vertebrae, a humerus (upper arm bone), and bones likely from the pelvis. This significant find was initially named and described only in brief, focusing on the shoulder blade and a single vertebra, leaving much of the discovery unexplored for several decades.

It wasn’t until 2015 that Jeffrey Wilson and Ronan Allain revisited these fossils, cleaning and describing the remaining parts that Lavocat had left untouched. Their work brought new insights into this dinosaur’s anatomy and significance. Additionally, a second specimen, featuring a partial vertebra found in the same region, was also attributed to Rebbachisaurus garasbae. This vertebra, if complete, would have measured an impressive 4.8 feet tall.

Possible Subspecies and Connection to South America

The story of Rebbachisaurus doesn’t end there. In 1960, another species, Rebbachisaurus tamesnensis, was named by de Lapparent. This species, initially thought to be found in Niger, comprised various bones including humeri (upper arm bones), femora (thigh bones), and vertebrae. However, it was later determined that these remains were collected from multiple locations across the Sahara and could not be definitively linked to Rebbachisaurus.

A third species, Rebbachisaurus tessonei, discovered in Argentina near the site of the Giganotosaurus carolinii holotype, was initially attributed to this genus in 1995. However, in 2004, it was reclassified into a new genus, Limaysaurus.

An interesting debate in the paleontological community revolves around the rebbachisaurid Rayososaurus agrioensis, named by Jose Bonaparte in 1996. This dinosaur, remarkably similar to Rebbachisaurus, has sparked discussions about whether it should be considered a separate genus. While there are morphological and temporal differences supporting their distinction, the debate highlights the complexities and ongoing discoveries in dinosaur classification.

Rebbachisaurus Size and Description

Rebbachisaurus, a sauropod of notable distinction, exhibited a fascinating array of physical features. It possessed a small head, elegantly contrasted by a long, graceful neck, and a tail reminiscent of a whip. What truly set this dinosaur apart, however, was its unusually tall, ridged back, crowned with a spine or sail-like structure. This unique characteristic, evidenced by the tall ridges on the preserved dorsal vertebrae of the holotype and other specimens, distinguishes Rebbachisaurus from other members of the sauropod family.

Size and Weight of Type Species

A size comparison diagram illustrating the scale of M. fragillimus, a type species of Maraapunisaurus, against the size of a human and another sauropod dinosaur. The diagram highlights the enormous size of M. fragillimus, with a visual representation showing its length and height relative to a human figure. This visual emphasizes the impressive dimensions and significant size of this Late Jurassic sauropod, providing context for its scale and physical characteristics.
Kenneth Carpenter., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The size estimates of Rebbachisaurus have varied over the years, reflecting the evolving nature of paleontological research. In 2010, Gregory S. Paul estimated the dinosaur to be about 46.0 feet long and weighing around 7.7 tons. A more generous estimation by Holtz in the same period suggested a length of approximately 66.0 feet. However, the most striking revision came in 2020 from Molina-Pérez and Larramendi, who proposed a significantly larger size of 85.3 feet in length and a weight of about 44.0 tons.

These varying estimates paint a picture of a truly colossal creature, one that would have been a dominant presence in its natural habitat. The combination of its size, the distinctive sail on its back, and its other physical attributes, like the long neck and whiplike tail, would have made Rebbachisaurus an awe-inspiring sight in the Cretaceous landscapes of Morocco.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

In the lush, ancient landscapes where Rebbachisaurus roamed, a magnificent and colossal herbivore, its life was a constant dance of coexistence and competition with its contemporaries. Imagine this gentle giant, stretching up to 85.3 feet long, ambling through the ferns and cycads, its long neck reaching for the choicest leaves. In this cenomanian world, size mattered, and Rebbachisaurus, with its massive frame, was like a moving mountain among the greenery.

Nearby, the sleek and agile Deltadromeus, a predator smaller than Rebbachisaurus but no less formidable, might have lurked in the underbrush. This carnivore, roughly half the size of our gentle giant, was likely on the prowl for smaller prey, but the presence of Rebbachisaurus might have been a constant reminder of the scale and diversity of life around it. While not direct competitors due to their different diets, the intersection of their paths would have been a spectacular display of the varied survival strategies in this ancient ecosystem.

Then there was Sauroniops, a predator that might have posed a real threat. Larger than Deltadromeus but still smaller than Rebbachisaurus, it could have seen our main dinosaur as a potential, albeit challenging, meal. The interactions between Sauroniops and Rebbachisaurus, whether as hunter and hunted or merely as wary co-inhabitants of the same territory, would have been a dramatic display of the predator-prey dynamics that ruled these ancient landscapes. In this cretaceous drama, Rebbachisaurus, despite its size, was not just a passive participant but a central character in the ever-evolving story of life on Earth millions of years ago.

Interesting Points about Rebbachisaurus

Rebbachisaurus in its Natural Habitat

In envisioning the world of Rebbachisaurus, we transport ourselves to a realm vastly different from our own. This colossal herbivore thrived during the Late Cretaceous Period, around 99.6 to 93.5 million years ago, in an environment that was as challenging as it was diverse. The habitat, primarily in the region that is now Morocco, was a mosaic of ancient landscapes, marked by a warm climate and lush vegetation. This era was characterized by a mix of dense forests and open plains, providing a rich buffet of ferns, conifers, and flowering plants for these herbivorous giants.

Diet and Ecosystem Impact

As a dedicated herbivore, Rebbachisaurus’s long neck was an evolutionary masterpiece, enabling it to reach high into the trees, plucking leaves and branches with ease. This dietary habit suggests a life mostly spent grazing, moving slowly but steadily across the landscape. With its enormous size, it likely had few natural predators, allowing it to focus on feeding and social interactions within its herd. The impact of such a large herbivore on its environment was significant. By feeding on certain plants and not others, Rebbachisaurus could have influenced the types of vegetation that thrived in its environment. Its movement paths might have created natural trails or clearings in the forest, impacting the landscape in a way similar to how modern elephants do in their ecosystems.

Geological Implications and Continental Connections

A fascinating aspect of Rebbachisaurus’s story is its connection to Rayososaurus, a South American sauropod. The near-identical nature of these two dinosaurs supports the theory that there was still a land connection between Africa and South America during the Early Cretaceous. This connection, long after it was commonly thought the two continents had separated, suggests a more complex geological and biological history than previously understood. The existence of such a land bridge would have allowed for the migration and exchange of species between these continents, contributing to the diversity and distribution of dinosaurs like Rebbachisaurus.

In conclusion, Rebbachisaurus was not just a passive inhabitant of its world; it was an active participant, shaping and being shaped by the environment it lived in. Its existence, along with its connection to other similar species, offers a fascinating glimpse into the complex interplay between ancient creatures, their habitats, and the geological forces that shaped the Earth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What era did this dinosaur live in?

Rebbachisaurus lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, specifically in the Early Cenomanian Age, around 100.5 to 93.5 million years ago.

What was its primary diet?

As a herbivore, its diet consisted mainly of plants. Its long neck would have allowed it to feed on a variety of vegetation, including leaves and branches from tall trees.

How did this dinosaur move?

It moved on all four legs, supported by strong, pillar-like limbs, which was typical for sauropods. This allowed it to move efficiently despite its massive size.

Where was this dinosaur first discovered?

The first Rebbachisaurus fossils were discovered in Gara Sba, Morocco, in 1948 by Rene Lavocat.

What does its name mean?

The name Rebbachisaurus translates to ‘Ayt Rebbach Lizard’, named after the Ayt Khebbash tribe in Morocco, where its fossils were first found.

Did this dinosaur live in herds?

Specific social behaviors of Rebbachisaurus are not definitively known,. However, given the patterns observed in other sauropods, that they lived and moved in groups or herds.


The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. The aim is to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of Rebbachisaurus. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.

Article last fact-checked: Joey Arboleda, 12-14-2023

Featured Image Credit: Nobu Tamura, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons