An impressive discovery was made by paleontologists from Virginia Tech in northern Zimbabwe, it is the skeleton, which was only missing part of the hand and parts of the skull, and which corresponds to the dinosaur oldest in Africa.
Findings of this new sauropodomorph, a long-necked dinosaur, recently named Mbiresaurus raathi were published today in Nature magazine. The skeleton is, so far, the oldest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Africa. The animal is estimated to have been 6 feet long with a long tail. He weighed between 20 and 65 pounds.
“The discovery of Mbiresaurus raathi fills a critical geographic gap in the fossil record of the oldest dinosaurs and shows the power of hypothesis-based fieldwork to test predictions about the ancient past,” said Christopher Griffin, a 2020 graduate with a Ph.D. in geosciences from the Faculty of Sciences Virginia Tech.
Griffin added: “These are the oldest known definitive dinosaurs from Africa, roughly equivalent in age to the oldest dinosaurs found anywhere in the world. The oldest known dinosaurs, from about 230 million years ago, the Carnia Stage of the Late Triassic period, are extremely rare and have been recovered from only a few locations worldwide, mainly northern Argentina, southern Brazil and India.
Beside mbiresaurus a variety of Carnian-age fossils were found, including a herrerasaurid dinosaur, relatives of early mammals such as cynodonts, relatives of armored crocodilians such as aetosaurs, and, in Griffin’s description, “strange and archaic reptiles” known as rhynchosaurs, again typically found in South America and India from this same time period.
“We never expected to find such a complete and well-preserved dinosaur skeleton,” said Griffin, now a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University. “When I found the femur of mbiresaurus, I immediately recognized it as belonging to a dinosaur and knew I had 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 breathe, I knew a lot of the skeleton was probably there, still articulated in life position.”