(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of scientists have described fossils of what is probably the oldest African dinosaur.
The two-meter pangolin lived on Earth about 230 million years ago, but its skeleton is incredibly well preserved. Only part of the skull and forelimb are missing.
Although dinosaurs dominated our planet for 150 million years, there are gaps in their paleontological history.
One of the most significant affects the first million years after the appearance of these animals on Earth – the late Triassic period , almost 230 million years ago.
Unfortunately, the first dinosaurs were small, nimble reptiles that lived in deserts where bones are poorly preserved, so most of their fossils from that period are extremely fragmented skeletons.
However, this time, paleontologists were lucky: during two paleontological expeditions in 2017 and 2019, an almost complete skeleton of the most ancient dinosaur was found in Zimbabwe.
Like all its contemporaries, the new species turned out to be a rather small animal, the size of an average dog: the length is estimated at 1.8 meters, weight – from 10 to 32.5 kilograms.
The dinosaur was named mbiresaurus Raatha (M biresaurus raathi ) – after the Mbire district in which it was found, and the names of paleontologist Michael Raat, one of those who discovered the fossils.
Prior to this, the bones of early dinosaurs were found in Brazil, India and Argentina, so the mbiresaurus is the first such find in Africa, not inferior in age to overseas “colleagues”.
Despite the fact that the dinosaur belongs to sauropodomorphs – a group that includes long-necked herbivorous diplodocus and argentinosaurs – it was most likely an omnivore that, along with plant foods, could eat insects and even small vertebrates.
Based on the fossils found with Mbirezaur, it was part of a complex ecosystem that included carnivorous dinosaurs (unfortunately, their bones are less preserved and cannot be identified to species), bizarre archaic reptiles , ethosaurs and rhynchosaurs, as well as the oldest relatives of mammals – herbivorous synapsids .
Having studied the location of Zimbabwe on a map of the Earth of the late Triassic period, scientists were able to draw conclusions about the settlement of early dinosaurs in the territory of Pangea , a supercontinent that at that time united all the land of our planet.
Probably, dinosaurs originated in the southern part of Pangea, in the temperate climate zone, and began to move north when the climate became cooler and wetter.
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