Giant Dinosaur Species Discovered In South Africa

Posted: Sep 30 2018, 3:24am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 30 2018, 3:31am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Giant Dinosaur Species Discovered in South Africa
Artist's reconstruction of what Ledumahadi mafube may have looked like. Credit: Viktor Radermacher

The new dinosaur was roughly double the size of a large African elephant and lived in Early Jurassic, nearly 200 million years ago.

An international team of researchers has discovered a new species of dinosaur that lived in South Africa around 200 million years ago. They have named it Ledumahadi mafube, which means “a giant thunderclap at dawn,” in the South African language Sesotho.

Ledumahadi mafube weighed 26,000 pounds and stood about 13 feet high at the hips. To put it more simply, the dinosaur was almost twice the size of a large African elephant, which makes it the largest land animal of its time.

“The name reflects the great size of the animal as well as the fact that its lineage appeared at the origins of sauropod dinosaurs. It honors both the recent and ancient heritage of southern Africa.” Paleontologist Professor Jonah Choiniere from University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) said.

The new dinosaur species looks like a sauropod, a group of large dinosuars with long neck and tail. Sauropods ate plants and have a four-legged stance like a modern elephant. Although new species also stood on four legs, its forelimbs were more crouched like a cat. The nature of this dinosaur’s forelimbs is different from all known sauropods.

“The first thing that struck me about this animal is the incredible robustness of the limb bones," said lead author, Dr. Blair McPhee. “It was of similar size to the gigantic sauropod dinosaurs, but whereas the arms and legs of those animals are typically quite slender, Ledumahadi's are incredibly thick. To me this indicated that the path towards gigantism in sauropodomorphs was far from straightforward, and that the way that these animals solved the usual problems of life, such as eating and moving, was much more dynamic within the group than previously thought.”

The analysis of the fossilized bones further reveals that the dinosaur was a fully grown adult, likely about 14 years old when it died.

“We can tell by looking at the fossilized bone microstructure that the animal grew rapidly to adulthood. Closely-spaced, annually deposited growth rings at the periphery show that the growth rate had decreased substantially by the time it died." Dr. Jennifer Botha-Brink from the South African National Museum in Bloemfontein said.

Ledumahadi was discovered in South Africa's Free State Province. It is currently a scenic mountainous area but used to be a flat, semi-arid landscape in Early Jurassic. Researchers have also noted that the new dinosaur is closely related to other gigantic dinosaurs from Argentina that lived at a similar time. This reinforces the idea that the supercontinent of Pangaea was still intact at that time. Professor Choiniere says. “It shows how easily dinosaurs could have walked from Johannesburg to Buenos Aires at that time.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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