A team of scientists, led by Wits Professor Jonah Choiniere, has described a new species of giant dinosaur whose fossils were found in the Free State, Phys.org reported.
Named Ledumahadi mafube, which is Sesotho for “a giant thunderclap at dawn”, it was a herbivorous dinosaur and the largest land animal on Earth when it lived almost 200 million years ago.
At a weight of 12 tonnes, and standing roughly four meters tall at the hips, the researchers estimate the dinosaur was about double the size of a large African elephant.
The dinosaur lived in the area around Clarens in the Free State.
Although Clarens is a scenic area surrounded by mountains, the researchers said it would have looked very different when Ledumahadi mafube was alive – a flat, semi-arid landscape with shallow and intermittently dry stream beds.
The researchers noted that Ledumahadi mafube is closely related to giant dinosaurs from Argentina, which were alive at around the same time. This further corroborates the postulate that Earth’s continents were still arranged in the supercontinent known as Pangaea in the Early Jurassic period.
“It shows how easily dinosaurs could have walked from Johannesburg to Buenos Aires at that time,” said Choiniere.
According to the report, Ledumahadi mafube was one of the closest relatives of sauropod dinosaurs.
However, while Ledumahadi mafube stood on four legs, the researchers describe its forelimbs are more crouched than its sauropod cousins.