Scientists have uncovered Africa’s oldest dinosaur in Zimbabwe, at more than 230 million years old, the BBC reported on Thursday.
The Mbiresaurus raathi stood at one meter, had a long neck, jagged teeth and moved on two legs, according to the BBC.
The dinosaur’s skeleton was reportedly discovered during two expeditions, in 2017 and 2019, to Mbire in the Zambezi Valley.
“When we talk of the evolution of early dinosaurs, fossils from the Triassic age are rare,” Darlington Munyikwa, deputy director of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, told the BBC.
Munyikwa was also part of the discovery exhibitions.
He told the British broadcaster that fossils from that era - which ended more than 200 million years ago - had also been discovered in South America and India.
Scientists said the Mbiresaurus was a species of sauropodomorph, a relative of the sauropod, the long-necked dinosaur that walked on four legs.
The discovery is expected to give more insight on the evolution and migration of early dinosaurs, back when the world was one huge continent, Munyikwa told the BBC.
Zimbabwe has been aware of other fossils in the area for decades and Munyikwa told the BBC there were more sites that needed further exploration in the area.
Prof Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, a palaeontologist at the University of Cape Town, who also took part in the study, told the BBC that the discovery was important because it was part of the lineage that gave rise to sauropods. Sauropod dinosaurs include the diplodocus and the brontosaurus.
“It tells us that when dinosaurs were evolving, they were found on different continents, but they seem to have followed a hot humid environment rather than dry inhospitable one,” she told the BBC. “We hope there is more coming out of that area.”
The almost complete skeleton of the Mbiresaurus raathi is stored in a museum in Zimbabwe’s southern city of Bulawayo.
It is thought to date to the Carnian stage of the Triassic period, when today’s Zimbabwe was part of the massive supercontinent Pangaea.