Graduate student at Virginia Tech’s Department of Geosciences unearthed the earliest dinosaur yet found in Africa. Amazingly, the extinct animal was largely unharmed, which allowed a group of paleontologists to classify it as a brand-new species.
The extinct dinosaur was about two meters (six feet) long, weighed between nine and twenty-nine kilograms (20 and sixty-five pounds), and walked on two legs. It belonged to the extinct group of saurischian dinosaurs known as the Sauropodomorpha. Its small head was armed with the triangular teeth of a herbivore or omnivore, and it had a lengthy neck and tail.
The new species, Mbiresaurus raathi, has been identified and described in the journal Nature.
Its name has Shona and Greek origins; “Mbire” was the name of the Shona dynasty that dominated the area as well as the district where it was discovered. The latter name, “raathi,” honors paleontologist Michael Raath for being one of the first researchers to report on fossils in northern Zimbabwe.
In a statement, the study’s lead author, Dr. Christopher Griffin, who graduated from the Virginia Tech College of Science in 2020 and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Yale University, said, “We never expected to uncover such a full and well-preserved dinosaur skeleton.
“When I discovered Mbiresaurus’ femur, I realized it belonged to a dinosaur right away, and I knew I was holding the oldest dinosaur ever discovered in Africa. I had to stop and take a breath when I started digging and discovered the left hip bone close to the left thigh bone because I knew that a large portion of the skeleton was probably still there, firmly articulated together in a life position.
A guy recently discovered what may have been the largest dinosaur ever discovered in Europe in his own backyard, where he encountered such old animals neatly arranged in their death postures.
M’s sudden and unexpected presence. raathi in the area only goes to demonstrate that what we now know about the first dinosaurs—which lived about 230 million years ago—is always open to revision. Fortunately, this discovery will make it possible for scientists studying the specimen to attempt to fill in any gaps in their knowledge.
The finding of Mbiresaurus raathi, according to Griffin, “fills in a crucial geographic gap in the fossil record of the oldest dinosaurs and demonstrates the effectiveness of hypothesis-driven fieldwork for validating hypotheses about the distant past.” These are the oldest unequivocal dinosaurs that have been found in Africa, roughly matching the age of the oldest dinosaurs discovered anywhere in the globe.