PAleontologists have discovered the remains of Africa’s oldest dinosaur in Zimbabwe. The dinosaur, with the Latin name Mbiresaurus raathi, lived around 230 million years ago and was only about one meter tall, the scientists involved in the find said on Thursday. “It walked around on two legs and had a pretty small head,” said Yale University paleontologist Christopher Griffin, who unearthed the first bone.
The researchers assume that the small dinosaur only weighed up to 30 kilograms, but had a long tail. It was likely an omnivore, feeding on plants, small animals, and insects. The researchers assigned the dinosaur to the group of Sauropodomorpha, which later also produced giant land-necked dinosaurs with the sauropods.
Similarities to fossils from Brazil and Argentina
The skeleton was uncovered during two expeditions in 2017 and 2019 by a research team from Zimbabwe, Zambia and the USA. “I dug up the complete femur and knew right away it was a dinosaur and I was holding Africa’s oldest known dinosaur fossil,” said Griffin, 31, then a graduate student at Blacksburg Technical University in Virginia .
Fossils of dinosaurs that old had previously only been found in South America and India. Zimbabwe was on the supercontinent Pangea at about the same latitude as the dinosaur sites in South America, which is why the paleontologists started their search here as well.
The Mbiresaurus raathi found in Zimbabwe closely resembles fossils from Brazil and Argentina, “confirming that South America and Africa were part of a contiguous landmass during the Late Triassic,” said Max Langer of the University of São Paulo in Brazil.
The dinosaur was named after the Mbire district in northeast Zimbabwe, where the skeleton was found, and the paleontologist Michael Raath, who first reported fossils in this region.