The Highland Giant: Artist Viktor Radermacher’s reconstuction of what Ledumahadi mafube may have looked like. Another South African dinosaur, Heterodontosaurus tucki, watches in the foreground. (Credit: Viktor Radermacher)
A discovery that has been 65 million years in the making.
A new species of dinosaur discovered, known as Ledumahadi mafube, the largest animal on Earth during his life.
Ledumahadi mafube, which means “a giant thunder at dawn” in the South African language of Sesotho, walked in an unusual way. The walk is not on the straight limbs, but with a “stooped” posture, which scientists believe L. mafube was an ‘ evolutionary ‘experiment’.”
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“The first thing that struck me about this animal is the incredible robustness of the limb bones,” said lead author Dr. Blair McPhee in a statement. “It was of similar size to the gigantic sauropod dinosaurs, but that the arms and legs of these animals are usually slender, Ledumahadi’s are incredibly thick.”
Dr. McPhee continued: “For me, this is an indication that the path in the direction of gigantism in the indicate was far from easy, and that the way these animals solved the usual problems of life, such as eating and exercise, much more dynamics in the group than previously thought.”
The study was published in the journal Current Biology.
The 13-ton, 49 meters long giant (approximately double the size of an African elephant) lived in the beginning of the Jurassic period, about 200 million years ago. Fossils of the sauropod were found in South Africa, near the country’s border with Lesotho, on what was then the super continent Panagea, in the 1980’s. But it was not until 2017, when the entire dinosaur was unearthed that paleontologists learned how it ran, LiveScience reported.
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The university of the Witwatersrand (Wits) palaeontologist Professor Jonah Choiniere noted that Ledumahadi is closely related to other giant dinosaurs from Argentina, hammering home the idea that Pangaea was still forming during the early Jurassic period. “It shows how easy dinosaurs may have walked from Johannesburg to Buenos Aires at that time,” Choiniere said in the statement.
Dr. Jennifer Botha-Brink of the South African National Museum analyzed the fossil of the tissue and was able to determine the age, adding the maturity had reached before he died.
“We can tell by looking at the fossilized bones microstructure that the animal is quickly to adulthood,” said Dr. Botha-Brink in the statement. “Of closely-spaced, annually deposited growth rings on the outside to show that the growth rate was decreased significantly by the time he died.”
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Like most congeners, L. mafube had a long neck and tail and was a herbivore.
“Many giant dinosaurs walked on four legs, but had ancestors who walked on two legs. Scientists want to know about this evolutionary change, but amazingly, no one came up with a simple method to tell how each dinosaur walked, until now,” Dr. Roger Benson said in a statement.
The discovery comes shortly after fossils of Ingentia fine (which means “big cousin”) have been unearthed in Argentina.
The discovery of I. fine marked the first sign of “gigantism” in the dinosaurs, about 30 million years older than previously thought.
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