DAR ES SALAAM – A new species of giant dinosaur which roamed southern Africa 70 million years ago has been unearthed in Tanzania.
The five-ton long-necked herbivore lived in the Cretaceous period when Madagascar and Antarctica split off from southern Africa‚ followed by the gradual “unzipping” of South America.
Similar skeletons have been found worldwide‚ but are best known from South America. Fossils in this group are rare in Africa.
The new dinosaur is called Shingopana songwensis‚ derived from the Swahili term “shingopana” (wide neck) and the location of the fossils in the Songwe region of the Great Rift Valley in south-western Tanzania. It was about 8m long.
“There are anatomical features present only in Shingopana and in several South American titanosaurs‚” said Eric Gorscak‚ a US palaeontologist who reported the find in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. “Shingopana had siblings in South America‚ whereas other African titanosaurs were only distant cousins.”
Judy Skog‚ of the US National Science Foundation‚ said: “This discovery suggests that the fauna of northern and southern Africa were very different in the Cretaceous period. At that time‚ southern Africa dinosaurs were more closely related to those in South America‚ and were more widespread than we knew.”
Paper co-author Eric Roberts‚ of James Cook University in Australia‚ said the Shingopana bones were damaged by the borings of ancient insects shortly after death.
“The presence of bone-borings provides a CSI-like opportunity to study the skeleton and reconstruct the timing of death and burial‚ and offers rare evidence of ancient insects and complex food webs during the age of the dinosaurs‚” he said.