Wednesday, September 10, 2014
New Species Of Massive Dinosaur Discovered In Africa
Researchers have discovered a new species of dinosaur that lived about 100 million years ago and may have weighed as much as several elephants.
The scientists first saw the fossils embedded in a cliff wall in the Rukwa Rift Basin of southwestern Tanzania. With the help of professional excavators and coal miners, the researchers unearthed vertebrae, ribs, limbs and pelvic bones over the course of two field seasons. After performing CT scans of the remains, the investigators determined that the animal was different than other dinosaurs identified before, including those previously discovered in other parts of Africa.
The researchers noted certain similarities between the newly-discovered dinosaur and another titanosaurian, Malawisaurus dixeyi, previously found in Malawi. Still, the two dinosaurs are distinctly different from each other, and from other titanosaurians known from northern Africa, according to study author Patrick O'Connor, a professor of anatomy in the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Thanks to the new discovery, scientists can now learn more about titanosaurians. So far, the fossils of only four titanosaurians have been found in Africa, compared with more than 30 in South America -- including a humongous specimen unveiled last week, which is believed to be the largest land animal ever found.
"Much of what we know regarding titanosaurian evolutionary history stems from numerous discoveries in South America -- a continent that underwent a steady separation from Africa during the first half of the Cretaceous Period," Gorscak said. "With the discovery of Rukwatitan and study of the material in nearby Malawi, we are beginning to fill a significant gap from a large part of the world."
The study describing the discovery was published Monday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.