About a meter high, 30 kilograms, a long tail and a rather small head: the animal whose skeleton discovery in Zimbabwe has just been announced by an international team of paleontologists, could be confused with an ordinary monitor lizard. However, even of a more modest size than the giant long-necked dinosaurs which will constitute its descendants, the Mbiresaurus raathi is indeed a creature of this distant era when the very first appeared. premiers mammals. It ran on two legs, about 230 million years ago…
If the skeleton – almost complete, it is rare – was found during expeditions in 2017 and 2019, it was not until this Wednesday August 31 that the team of researchers from Zimbabwe, Zambia and the United States published its results in the prestigious journal Nature. Of the sauropodomorph species, the “Rhodesian” dinosaur is presented as the oldest known dinosaur fossil on the continent. The animal was likely an omnivore that fed on plants, small animals, and insects.
Just out, Africa’s oldest dinosaurs! Paper and project led by Chris Griffin and an international team of Zimbabwean, American, Zambian, and Brazilian scientists. We introduce Mbiresaurus raathi, an early sauropodomorph from Zimbabwe (art by Atuchin) https://t.co/EPCaKI67ld pic.twitter.com/4HDpF8iyrW
— VT Paleobiology (@VTechmeetsPaleo) August 31, 2022
Its name, ‘Mbiresaurus raathi’, is a double tribute to the Mbire district of northeastern Zimbabwe – where the skeleton was found – and to paleontologist Michael Raath, the first researcher to report fossils in this region of the globe. The specimen discovered joined others at the History Museum natural from the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo.
It was the scientist from the American University of Yale Christopher Griffin who unearthed the first bone of this skeleton, a femur. He started digging in Zimbabwe based on the theory that all of today’s continents were once connected into a single landmass called Pangea. He calculated that ancient Rhodesia was likely, at the time, at about the same latitude as modern South America. Relevant inspiration: these are indeed the remains of dinosaurs from the same period and with the same characteristics as the Mbiresaurus raathi which were previously found in Brazil and Argentina.
Human migrations would have been much simpler in the supercontinent era, when Africa, South America and Europe were glued together. But man, if he had been present, would doubtless have failed to invent the fence…