A new dinosaur carrying its "heart" at the tail provides new clues to the evolution of African ecosystems during the Cretaceous, according to Ohio University researchers.
The OHIO team has identified and named the new dinosaur species in an article this week PLUS ONE, The new dinosaur, the third, now described by southwestern Tanzania by the NSF-funded team, is another member of the large, long-necked titanosaur sauropods. The partial skeleton was recovered from Cretaceous (approximately 100 million years ago) rocks exposed in a cliff face in the western branch of the large East African Rift system.
The new dinosaur is called Mnyamawamtuka Moyowamkia (Mm-nya-ma-wah-mm-to-ka mm-oh-yo-wa-mm-key-ah), a name derived from Swahili for "animal of Mtuka (with) a heart-shaped tail" the name of the river bed (Mtuka) in which it was discovered, and the unique shape of its tail bones.
The first discovery of Mnyamawamtuka was found in 2004, when part of the skeleton was discovered high in a rock face overlooking the seasonally dry Mtuka River bed, with annual excavations until 2008. "Although titanosaurs became one of the most successful dinosaur groups before the notorious mass extinction of the era covered dinosaurs her early evolutionary history remains opaque Mnyamawamtuka helps to explain these beginnings, especially for their African side of history, "said lead author Dr. Eric Gorscak, who recently completed his doctorate at Ohio University, is currently a research associate at the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago) and now Assistant Professor Midwestern University at Downers Grove, just outside Chicago. "The abundance of skeletal information suggests that it was related to other known African titanosaurs, with the exception of some interesting similarities to another dinosaur, Malawisaurus, from across Tanzania – Malawi border, "stated Dr. Gorscak.
Titanosaurs are best known from the Cretaceous cliffs in South America, but other efforts by the team include new species that have been discovered in Tanzania, Egypt and other parts of the African continent, providing a more complex picture of the evolution of dinosaurs on the planet. "The discovery of dinosaurs like Mnyamawamtuka and others we've recently discovered are like a four-dimensional connection of dots, "said Dr. Patrick O'Connor, a professor of anatomy at Ohio University and Gorscak's adviser during his PhD." Every New Discovery Contributes to It The picture of the continental Africa's ecosystems in the Cretaceous is more detailed and gives us a more holistic view of past biotic change. "
The excavation process took several years and included field teams hung on ropes and large mechanical excavators to extract one of the more complete specimens from this section of the sauropod dinosaur pedigree. "Without the deployment of several field teams, including some whose members had put on climbing equipment for the early excavations, the skeleton would have entered the river during quite intense rainy periods in that part of the East African Rift system," O & Connor added.
"This latest discovery is another great example of how Ohio University researchers around the world are doing scientific research," said Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis. "This team has produced a number of remarkable discoveries that together contribute significantly to the understanding of the natural world."
Mnyamawamtuka and the other Tanzanian titanosaurs are not the only animals discovered by the research team. In recent years, remains of bizarre relatives of early crocodiles, the earliest evidence of "insect farming" and tantalizing evidence of the early evolution of monkeys and monkeys have been found. Such findings from the East African trench provide a crucial insight into the ancient ecosystems of Africa and provide the impetus for future work in other places on the continent.
"This new dinosaur provides us with important information about African fauna in a time of evolutionary change," said Judy Skog, program director of the National Science Foundation's Department of Earth Sciences, which funded the research. "The discovery provides insights into Paleogeography during the Cretaceous, as well as timely information on a heart-shaped tail-bone animal during this week of Valentine's Day."
The most recent findings of the Rukwa Rift Basin research team include:
- · Shingopana songwensis – Titanosaurs sauropod dinosaur, Rukwa Rift Basin
· Rukwatitan bisepultus – Titanosaurs sauropod dinosaur, Rukwa Rift Basin
· Pakasuchus kapilimai – Mammal-like crocodile, Rukwa Rift Basin
Early evidence of monkey-apes cleavage, Rukwa Rift Basin Project
· Early evidence of insect keeping – Fossil Termite Esters, Rukwa Rift Basins
"The Tanzanian story is far from over, but we know enough to ask what palaeontological and geological similarities and similarities there are with nearby rock units." Repeating Malawi is my top priority in answering these broader regional questions "said Gorscak, who also participates in ongoing projects in Egypt and Kenya. "With Mnyamawamtuka and other discoveries, I am not sure to regard it as writing or reading the next chapter in the paleontological book of Africa. I'm just curious to see where this story will take us. "
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