A new species of long-necked titanosaurian dinosaur has been unearthed in southwestern Tanzania.
The newly-discovered titanosaur is called Shingopana songwensis and lived between 100 and 70 million years ago (Cretaceous period).
A partial skeleton of the prehistoric creature was first excavated in 2002 and represents the first significant discovery by the Rukwa Rift Basin Project, an international collaborative effort led by Ohio University paleontologists.
Over the next few years of excavation, additional portions of the skeleton, including neck vertebrae, ribs, a humerus, and part of the lower jaw, were recovered.
“There are a couple of key anatomical features only present in Shingopana songwensis and several South American titanosaurs but that are absent in other African titanosaurs,” said team member Dr. Eric Gorscak, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
“Shingopana songwensis had siblings in South America, whereas the other African titanosaurs were only distant cousins.”
Detailed comparison of the new titanosaur with other known sauropod dinosaurs suggests that the species found in southern Africa are certainly more diverse than previously thought.
Dr. Gorscak and colleagues conducted phylogenetic analyses in order to understand the evolutionary relationships of these and other known titanosaurs.
What they discovered is that Shingopana songwensis was more closely related to South American titanosaurs than to any of the other species currently known from Africa or elsewhere.
“This discovery suggests that the fauna of northern and southern Africa were different in the Cretaceous period,” said Dr. Judy Skog, program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences.
“At that time, Southern African dinosaurs were more closely related to those in South America, and were more widespread than we knew.”
During the Cretaceous period, Shingopana songwensis roamed the landscape alongside Rukwatitan bisepultus, another species of titanosaur the same team described in 2014.
The research on the new species appears today in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Eric Gorscak et al. A basal titanosaurian sauropod from Rukwa Rift Basin, southwestern Tanzania. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, published online August 24, 2017; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2017.1343250
This article is based on text provided by Ohio University.