Oldest African Dinosaur Discovered in Zimbabwe
The oldest definitive dinosaur species ever discovered in Africa, and one of the oldest to walk the Earth, was discovered in Zimbabwe, a new study has found. hit the evolutionand one of the most fundamental questions of Triassic paleontology, why did dinosaurs inhabit only part of the ancient supercontinent Pangea?
Scientists began studying the Pebbly Arkose Formation in northern Zimbabwe in 2017. Mbilesaurus lahti, a nearly complete skeleton, named after the Shona dynasty “Mbile” that once ruled the region. The species is named after Michael Raath, who contributed to the discovery of the first fossils in the area.About 230 million years old, this specimen is on par with the oldest dinosaur I have found it.Their results were published online in the journal on Wednesday (August 31) Nature (opens in new tab).
Christian Kammerer, curator of paleontological research at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science in an email. The newly named dinosaur is a sauropodomorph, a relative of the towering (and iconic) long-necked sauropods. Brachiosaurus When ApatosaurusApproximately 6 feet (2 meters) long, or about as long as a Shetland pony, they are 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) tall at the waist. M. Lahti It wasn’t small, but it was huge 122 feet (37 m) long Patagotitan.
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M. Lahti In the late Triassic period (252-201 million years ago), they lived on the banks of the river that would become Zimbabwe. It was a rich ecosystem, not just dinosaurs. “I think a lot of the stories are about all the different animals that we discovered together,” Christopher Griffin, lead author of the study and a vertebrate paleontologist at Yale University, told Live Science. Excavations have uncovered numerous primitive mammals known as chinodons, armored crocodiles, strange-billed reptiles called rhynchosaurus, and even evidence of early carnivorous dinosaurs.
This assemblage almost exactly mirrors the fossils paleontologists would expect to find in seas buried in Patagonian grasslands or hidden in Brazilian rock outcroppings.
During the Triassic, all earthThe continents of the United States were smoothed together into what is known as one giant continent. PangeaBecause of this ancient proximity, many regions now separated by oceans, such as the coasts of South America and Africa, once shared flora and fauna. If you draw a line across it, you’ll also cross northern Zimbabwe,” Griffin said.
as a result, M. Lahti It is very similar to other late Triassic sauropodomorphs. Eoraptor and dog size Saturnalia, both found in Brazil and some in India. It remains a bit of a mystery as to why certain animal species were relegated to certain regions of Pangea during this period. “You might think it would be easy to cross a supercontinent,” Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, told Live Science. “But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
But sites such as the Pebbly Arkose Formation offer clues to this millennia-old mystery.build on previous research, researchers proposed that different climate patterns, rather than physical boundaries like the ocean, held Triassic animals in place. Closely related dinosaurs found in South America, south-central Africa and India indicate that similar animals roamed freely in this particular latitudinal zone, although climatic barriers such as extreme heat and drought have prevented them from doing so. Because of that, it probably wasn’t outside of that, the researchers wrote in the study.
Dinosaurs probably did not disperse to other regions of Pangea until these climatic barriers were eased. Habitats are still influenced today by how these climate zones affected the ancestors of the groups, the researchers suggest.
Meanwhile, another dinosaur fossil found in Africa may be older M. Lahti — Nyasasaurus, was found in a fossil bed of about 245 million years ago in Tanzania. but, Nyasasaurus Only known from a handful of bones. Taken together, it does not form a complete enough skeleton to determine whether it is a true dinosaur or simply a dinosaur ancestor (known as a dinosaur form). either way, M. Lahti It represents an important part of the dinosaur lineage mosaic.
“In principle, the discovery of a new species is very important to science. And the fact that this species is the oldest confirmed dinosaur in Africa makes it particularly ‘amazing’,” he told Live Science. The specimen is now housed at the Zimbabwe Museum of Natural History in Bulawayo and will serve as an inspiration to generations of paleontologists.
“We knew very little about the earliest dinosaurs in Africa and their discoveries. Mbilesaurus “I think this is one of the most important recent dinosaur discoveries on the planet,” Brusatte said.
Originally published in Live Science.