Africa’s Oldest Known Dinosaur That Walked Round Zimbabwe 230 Million Years Ago

According to recent fossil study, a long-necked dinosaur with jagged teeth and a lengthy tail roamed Zimbabwe 230 million years ago.

The oldest dinosaur discovered in Africa so far, the Mbiresaurus raathi, was about six feet long and weighed between 20 and 65 pounds.

Dr. Christopher Griffin of the Virginia Tech College of Science stated that the finding of Mbiresaurus raathi “fills in a significant geographic gap in the fossil record of the oldest dinosaurs and highlights the effectiveness of hypothesis-driven fieldwork for verifying predictions about the ancient past.”

These dinosaurs are the oldest known in Africa and are roughly the same age as the oldest dinosaurs discovered anyplace else in the globe.

The oldest dinosaurs, dating from the Carnian Stage of the Late Triassic period, around 230 million years ago, are extremely rare and have only been discovered in a small number of locations worldwide, namely northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and India.

The only missing elements of Mbiresaurus raathi’s bones are its hand and part of its skull, which were discovered in northern Zimbabwe.

‘Early dinosaurs like Mbiresaurus raathi illustrate that the early development of dinosaurs is still being written with each new find, and the advent of dinosaurs was far more complicated than previously thought,’ said Dr. Sterling Nesbitt, one of the study’s authors.

Mbiresaurus stood on two legs and had a relatively small skull with small, triangular, serrated teeth, according to an examination of its fossilized bones.

This suggests it was likely a herbivore or an omnivore, according to Dr Griffin.

‘We never expected to find such a complete and well-preserved dinosaur skeleton,’ said Dr Griffin.

‘When I found the femur of Mbiresaurus, I immediately recognized it as belonging to a dinosaur and I knew I was holding the oldest dinosaur ever found in Africa.

‘When I kept digging and found the left hip bone right next to the left thigh bone, I had to stop and take a breath — I knew that a lot of the skeleton was probably there, still articulated together in life position.’

Alongside Mbiresaurus, the researchers found a range of other fossils, including a herrerasaurid dinosaur, early mammal relatives such as cynodonts, armored crocodylian relatives such as aetosaurs, and ‘bizarre, archaic reptiles’ known as rhynchosaurs.

They hope the findings will help to shed light on the timing and location of early dinosaur migrations.

When Earth’s continents were one – a supercontinent known as Pangea – the climate was thought to have been divided into climate belts, which influenced the distribution of animals.

Latitudinal belts were thought to have strong humid and arid climates, while higher latitudes and lower tropics were more temperate.

‘Because dinosaurs initially dispersed under this climatic pattern, the early dispersal of dinosaurs should therefore have been controlled by latitude,’ Dr Griffin explained.