There is so much we do not know about this little blue planet. Every now and then, there is a new discovery that proves this to be so. One such discovery was a new, early dinosaur which is determined to be Africa’s oldest known dinosaur. An international team of paleontologists led by Virginia Tech has discovered and named this new, early dinosaur.
The skeleton of this early dinosaur was uncovered almost intact, over the course of two digs in 2017 and 2019. It was discovered by a graduate student from the Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences. These findings of the newly discovered dinosaur, which is a sauropodomorpha – an extinct clade of long-necked, herbivorous, saurischian dinosaurs – and named Mbiresaurus raathi, have been published in the journal Nature on August 31, 2022.
The name Mbiresaurus is derived from Shona and ancient Greek roots. “Mibre” is the name of the district where the ancient animal was found and also the name of a historic Shona dynasty that ruled the region. Meanwhile, “raathi” is a nod to Michael Raath, the paleontologist who first reported fossils in northern Zimbabwe.
Oh, yes, this latest dino discovery was uncovered in Zimbabwe. Northern Zimbabwe was purposefully targeted as the region for this paleontology dig because the country fell along the same climate belt that was thought to have been where dinosaurs initially dispersed.
The uncovering of Mbiresaurus raathi proved that the paleontologists were right and it was a significant discovery:
“The discovery of Mbiresaurus raathi fills in a critical geographic gap in the fossil record of the oldest dinosaurs and shows the power of hypothesis-driven fieldwork for testing predictions about the ancient past… These are Africa’s oldest-known definitive dinosaurs, roughly equivalent in age to the oldest dinosaurs found anywhere in the world. The oldest known dinosaurs — from roughly 230 million years ago, the Carnian Stage of the Late Triassic period — are extremely rare and have been recovered from only a few places worldwide, mainly northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and India.”Christopher Griffin, Ph.D. graduate of 2020, Virginia Tech College of Science.
Anyhoo, this newly discovered ancient creature that roam the plains of early Earth is estimated to have been 6 feet long with a long tail and weighs anywhere from 20 to 65 pounds. The skeleton is mostly intact, only missing some of the hand and portions of the skull.
Also involved in the discovery were paleontologists from the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe, and Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil. You can dig more into this recent discovery in an article posted on the Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences.
Images courtesy of Virginia Tech.