The latter half of 2017 has been all about milestones for our Jurassic ancestors. Casual hikers discovered a Stegomastodon fossil, while the world’s largest dinosaur finally earned its nickname. If you thought things couldn’t get more exciting, you might want to take a trip down to southern Africa. Scientists have just unearthed evidence of an enormous meat-eating dinosaur — and it’s almost the size of T-Rex.
Several three-toed footprints left by the two-legged “megatheropod”… were found near the site of a prehistoric watering hole or river bank in the kingdom of Lesotho.
Experts calculated that the creature would have been around nine metres (30ft) long and stood almost three metres (9.8ft) tall at the hip.
Theropods from the Jurassic period were relatively small — roughly the length of a crocodile — making Kayentapus ambrokholohali quite the celebrity. Thrilled paleontologists also located other footprints, making this discovery one of the greatest of the century.
“This makes it a significant find. Globally, these large tracks are very rare. There is only one other known site similar in age and sized tracks, which is in Poland.”
While it’s good to know such fascinating animals existed, I’m not too upset they’re extinct.
The age of dinosaurs has long come and gone, yet miraculously, their bones have remained intact. Millions of years later, paleontologists have uncovered major finds such as pterosaur eggs in China. Nobody thus far has their sight set on a real-life Jurassic Park, but the discoveries keep on coming. Smack dab in the core of the Sahara desert, the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology has dug up the perfectly preserved fossils of the Mansourasaurus shahinae.
Mansourasaurus helps us address long standing questions about Africa’s fossil record and palaeobiology – what animals were living there, and to what other species were these animals most closely related?”
The talk of the town 80 million years prior, the herbivore was roughly the length of a London double-decker bus. The creature likely donned a long neck, much like the well-known brontosaurus. The discovery is a milestone for researchers in Africa, where it is difficult to uncover dinosaur residue.
“This was the Holy Grail – a well-preserved dinosaur from the end of the Age of Dinosaurs in Africa – that we paleontologists had been searching for for a long, long time.”
The Mansoura team is confident it’ll stumble into even grander findings. With a landmark achievement like this, I wouldn’t be too surprised!
Recent discoveries of a 1-million-year-old Stegomastodon and ancient water bird fossil are taking a backseat, thanks to an even greater finding. As luck would have it, paleontologists have hit the jackpot in Xinjiang, China with 215 pterosaur eggs. Fortunately, there are no plans to open up a real-life Jurassic Park — yet.
“When you have a really unique find, you basically can’t do anything to it because that’s all you’ve got. But now that we have literally hundreds of eggs to work with, we have more options — such as cutting different eggs into cross-sections to study growth rates.” [said paleobiologist David Unwin.]
16 of the eggs contain embryonic remains, encompassed by dozens of highly-intact skeletons. Though this particular species of pterosaur boasted an 11-foot wingspan, it technically wasn’t a dinosaur. Scientists assume pterosaurs would’ve closer resembled a giant albatross — just significantly more frightening.
“I think these new embryonic finds are really exciting because with these, we can begin to reconstruct the embryonic development of pterosaurs inside the egg. I just think it’ll take time to do that.” [said Unwin.]
With potentially 300 more surrounding eggs undiscovered, the horizons for study are limitless. Let’s just hope nobody gets any crazy ideas.