Human Interest

Africa’s oldest dinosaur unearthed in Zimbabwe

Harare, Sep 1 (EFE).- Paleontologists in Zimbabwe have unearthed the remains of the oldest dinosaur found in Africa, researchers said Thursday.

The skeleton of the dinosaur, known by its scientific name Mbiresaurus raathi, was first discovered in 2017 during an expedition to the remote northern district of Mbire in the Zambezi Valley.

“These are Africa’s oldest-known definitive dinosaurs, roughly equivalent in age to the oldest dinosaurs found anywhere in the world,” the team led by American scientist Christopher Griffin said in a press release sent to Efe.

It said the dinosaur — whose skeleton is nearly 90 percent intact — is a species of sauropodomorph.

The creature would have stood on two legs, measured 1-1.5 meters high and had a long neck and small head.

“The only major bones missing are some of the hand and portions of the skull,” the team explained.

The dinosaur lived during the Carnian Age of the Triassic Period, around 230 million years ago.

It is believed that at that time all the world’s continents were incorporated into a single supercontinent known as Pangaea.

Zimbabwe then was in line with northern Argentina, southern Brazil and India, according to the scientists.

Alongside the new Zimbabwean dinosaur skeleton, the research team discovered a variety of other fossils.

These included ancient reptiles known as rhynchosaurs and the early ancestors of mammals and crocodiles known as cynodonts and aetosaurs.

They are significantly similar to fossils that have been discovered at paleontology sites in Argentina, Brazil and India.

The research team, whose findings were published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, highlighted that it expects to discover many more fossils in Zimbabwe’s Mbire district.

“A considerable number of fossil sites was discovered, and further exploration will be conducted,” the statement said.

Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, a paleontologist from the University of Cape Town who is not part of the study, said the dinosaur discovery was good news for Africa.

“I believe Africa still has many more dinosaurs that will be discovered,” Chinsamy-Turan told Efe.

The Mbire district is due to be the site of a major gas and oil exploration by the Australian firm Invictus.

Chinsamy-Turan said that while mining activities can sometimes help to unearth new fossil sites, she hoped necessary precautions are taken to protect the area’s fossil riches.

“I sincerely hope that environmental and palaeontological impact assessments have been conducted, and those firm agreements are in place to ensure that the ecology is protected and that any fossils discovered are properly excavated and taken to a museum for safety and study,” she said.EFE


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