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A team that included scientists from the University of Cape Town has discovered a new set of footprint fossils that suggests a large carnivorous dinosaur roamed southern Africa around 200-million years ago.
The three-toed dinosaur footprints were discovered on a dirt road near the Lesotho capital of Maseru, measuring 57cm in length and 50cm in breadth.
Moreover, the size of the footprint suggests that this dinosaur was about eight metres from head to tail, or around four metres shorter than the tyrannosaurus rex.
The discovery is a “first for Africa”, noted Lara Sciscio, a Postdoctoral research fellow in Geological Sciences, at the University of Cape Town.
“Until this discovery, theropod dinosaurs were thought to be considerably smaller, at three to five metres in body length, during the Early Jurassic,” she writes in the university-led publication The Conversation.
“The unanticipated footprint size of this Lesotho giant considerably expands the body size range of theropods in the Early Jurassic.”
The team also included scientists from the University of Manchester, the Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis in Spain, and the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil.
Sciscio noted that the species will be named Kayentapus ambrokholohali after Professor David Ambrose, a former head research fellow at the University of Lesotho.
“We were following in Ambrose’s footsteps, trying to relocate one of his documented sites, when we discovered the freshly exposed megatheropod footprints,” she writes.
While the prints are in abundance, the team has yet to find fossil material of the species.
“Hopefully we’ll soon discover more unusual footprints and, from there, body fossils that will help add to our understanding of the complex ancient world,” Sciscio concludes.
The entire paper is available to peruse on PLOS here.
H/T: The Conversation
Feature image: PLOS