THE OLDEST African dinosaur ever discovered was recently unveiled in Zimbabwe.
A team of international researchers has unearthed the dinosaur, named Mbiresaurus raathi, in the Pebbly Arkose Formation in northern Zimbabwe.
Their research, which cites the dinosaur as the oldest species ever discovered in Africa, was published in the journal Nature On Wednesday.
Scientists began work at the site in 2017, but their work experienced some delays when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Now, five years later, archaeologists have uncovered a nearly complete skeleton of Mbiresaurus raathi.
The dinosaur’s first name, Mbire, is inspired by the Shona dynasty that once ruled the region.
Meanwhile, the dinosaur’s surname honors Michael Raath, a man who helped discover the first fossils in the area, Live Science reported.
Mbiresaurus raathi is classified as a sauropodomorph, making it an ancestor of the long-necked sauropods, according to the study.
The dinosaur was about 6 feet tall with a long neck and weighed between 20 and 65 pounds.
Based on the fossil data, the researchers said that Mbiresaurus may have walked on two legs and had a smaller head than its dinosaur companions of the time.
The researchers also believe the animal was a herbivore – but note that it may have been omnivorous due to its small, triangular teeth.
An ancient discovery
This specimen is one of the oldest dinosaurs ever found, dating to the late Triassic period (252 million to 201 million years ago).
“The oldest known dinosaurs – from about 230 million years ago, the late Triassic Carnic stage – are extremely rare and have only been recovered from a few locations worldwide, mainly in northern Argentina, southern Brazil and India,” said study co-author Dr. Christopher Griffin.
“When I found the femur of Mbiresaurus I knew immediately that it belonged to a dinosaur and I knew I was holding the oldest dinosaur ever found in Africa.”
“When I kept digging and found the left hip bone right next to the left thigh bone, I had to stop and take a breath.”
dr Griffin noted that this discovery fills a “critical geographic gap” in the fossil record of the oldest dinosaurs, giving scientists more insight into their evolution.
“Early dinosaurs like Mbiresaurus raathi show that early dinosaur evolution is still being written with each new find and the rise of dinosaurs was much more complicated than previously predicted,” reiterated Sterling Nesbitt, another author of the study.
The new findings also give the scientists insights into the migration of dinosaurs.
When Mbiresaurus raathi roamed the Earth 230 million years ago, Zimbabwe was part of the vast supercontinent Pangea.
This supercontinent featured a variety of climates that may have confined the earliest dinosaurs to southern Pangea.
“The oldest dinosaurs are known from about the same ancient latitudes along the southern temperate belt, which was about 50 degrees south at the time,” said Dr. griffins
They eventually became extinct due to a weather event dubbed the “Carnian Pluvial Episode” that shifted the general climate to a hotter and wetter one.
https://www.thesun.ie/tech/news-tech/9345129/oldest-african-dinosaur-millions-years-humans/ Oldest African dinosaur EVER excavated at 230 million years – and it was larger than most humans