by Mary Caperton Morton Tuesday, December 9, 2014
The Cretaceous landscape was dominated by huge herbivorous sauropods, the largest land animals ever to walk the planet. Fossils from many of these massive creatures have been unearthed around the world, but the recent discovery of a new specimen of titanosaurus in Tanzania is among the first sauropods found on the African continent.
The new species, dubbed Rukwatitan bisepultus, was first spotted eroding out of a cliff wall in the Rukwa Rift Basin of southwestern Tanzania. Excavated by a team of paleontologists and coal miners, the assemblage of vertebrae, ribs, limbs and pelvic bones revealed unique features that suggested a new species, they reported in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
“Using both traditional and new computational approaches, we were able to place the new species within the family tree of sauropod dinosaurs and determine both its uniqueness as a species and to delineate other species with which it is most closely related,” said lead author Eric Gorscak, of Ohio University, in a statement.
The study adds to the global portrait of titanosaurians, which lived from about 100 million years ago until the end of the Cretaceous roughly 65 million years ago. “With the discovery of Rukwatitan and study of material in nearby Malawi, we are beginning to fill a significant gap from a large part of the world,” Gorscak said.
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