WASHINGTON (AFP) – A rare discovery of dinosaur bones in Tanzania has led scientists to identify a new species of long-extinct, leaf-eating dinosaur, according to research published on Monday.
Named Rukwatitan bisepultus, the remains of the majestic creature were found in a cliff wall in the Rukwa Rift Basin of southwestern Tanzania.
When alive, the herbivore probably weighed as much as several elephants and boasted front legs that were two metres long.
But it was not as large as its cousin, Dreadnoughtus, unveiled last week after a dig in Argentina.
That specimen would have weighed about 60 tons in life, and was the most complete found so far in the category of massive plant-eating dinosaurs called Titanosaurs.
Still, researchers said there are plenty of fascinating facts about the Rukwatitan bisepultus which lived about 100 million years ago, including its discovery in Africa.
Related creatures have been found mainly in South America. Scientist have found fossils for more than 30 titanosaurians in South America, but just four in Africa.
“Much of what we know regarding titanosaurian evolutionary history stems from numerous discoveries in South America – a continent that underwent a steady separation from Africa during the first half of the Cretaceous Period,” said Eric Gorscak, a doctoral student in biological sciences at Ohio University.
“With the discovery of Rukwatitan and study of the material in nearby Malawi, we are beginning to fill a significant gap from a large part of the world.”
The findings appear in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.