It’s been a week of big discoveries in the world of dinosaur fossils. On the heels of one group of scientists announcing they had uncovered on of the largest dinosaurs known to man, another group has announced the discovery of a new “titanosaur” species in Africa.
— Alex Rodrigues (@alexrodrigues43) September 9, 2014
The largely-sized herbivore, called Rukwatitan bisepultus, is estimated to have weighed as much as several elephants and likely stretched 30 feet from head to tail. Its forelimbs alone were close to seven feet long.
Scientists from Ohio University discovered the Titanosaur’s fossilized remains embedded in a cliff wall in southeastern Tanzania. The team unearthed vertebrae, ribs, limbs, and pelvic bones over a period of several months and ultimately deduced they belong to a previously unknown species of titanosaur after performing detailed comparisons using CT scans of the bones.
This rare find for the continent – only four titanosaur skeletons have ever been found in Africa – compared to more than 30 in South America.
“This titanosaur finding is rare for Africa, and will help resolve questions about the distribution and regional characteristics of what would later become one of the largest land animals known,” Paul Filmer, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s division of earth sciences, said in a written statement. “Titanosaurians make up the vast majority of known Cretaceous sauropods, and have been found on every continent, yet Africa has so far yielded only four formally recognized members.”
Rukwatitan likely roamed the region about 100 million years ago during the middle of the Cretaceous Period, according to researchers.
“Much of what we know regarding titanosaurian evolutionary history stems from numerous discoveries in South America –a continent that underwent a steady separation from Africa during the first half of the Cretaceous Period,” lead author Eric Gorscak, a doctoral student at Ohio University, said in the statement. “With the discovery of Rukwatitan … we are beginning to fill a significant gap from a large part of the world.”
The findings were published in the Sept. 8 issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.