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12-Ton Jurassic Dino Was the Largest to Walk the Earth

September 28, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

The newly discovered species was massive but walked with a cat-like crouch.

A reconstruction of what the newly discovered dinosaur Ledumahadi mafube may have looked like.

A newly discovered species of dinosaur weighed in at twice the heft of an African elephant and walked with a crouchlike a cat. The dinosaur roamed southern Africa during the early Jurassic Period, some 200 million years ago and, at 12 metric tons, was by far the largest creature on Earth at the time.

Ledumahadi mafube—the name means “giant thunderclap at dawn” in Southern Sotho, a Bantu language of the region—was a distant cousin of the famous sauropod Brontosaurus, but lived millions of years earlier. According to a study, .

The first fossils of this dinosaur emerged during a construction project in the late 1980s, when they were found nestled in layers of rock near the border of Lesotho, a mountainous country that South Africa completely encloses. More than a decade later, researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand returned to the site and found more bones. It wasn’t until 2017 that they were able to excavate all its remains, including a wrist bone that helped them determine the dinosaur’s distinctive manner of walking.

“It walked on all fours, but unlike an elephant, which has very rigid, erect legs, its stance would have been more crouched, like a cat or a dog,” Choiniere explained.

By tracing the growth rings in the fossilized bones, the researchers determined the dinosaur was 14 years old, and fully grown, when it died between 195 and 200 million years ago.

Closely spaced growth rings at the periphery of the fossil show that the animal is an adult.

But its mixture of features initially confused the scientists. Like its famous cousin, Brontosaurus, L. mafube was a giant plant-eater with a long, skinny neck, tiny head and long tail. But while its its back legs were huge, strong and column-like, similar to its later sauropod relatives, its front legs looked smaller and more suitable for grabbing things, like earlier two-legged sauropodomorphs.

L. mafube was a sauropodomorph, they concluded, but a much larger one than they had thought existed this early in the Jurassic. And unlike some earlier sauropodomorphs, L. mafube walked on four legs, not two, although it could rear up on its hind legs if it needed to—to nibble leaves off a tree, for example. The researchers believe …read more


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