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  • An illustration of the Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia.

    An illustration of the Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia. | Photo: Ohio University Handout

Published 14 February 2019

The scientists acquired 45 percent of Mnyamawamtuka’s skeleton, including multiple vertebrae, front and hind limb bones, ribs and teeth, but no skull.

A group of scientists announced, Wednesday, the discovery of a nearly complete skeleton of a dinosaur which was unearthed from a cliff near the Mtuka River bed in southwestern Tanzania.

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The dinosaur, Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, which had four pillar-like legs, a long neck, a long tail with a slight heart-shaped vertebrae and was a plant-eater that belongs to the titanosaurs group lived some 100 million years ago.  

“Mnyamawamtuka is important as it is a relatively complete animal from the early part of the titanosaurian diversification. Thus, it provides a critical look at the group before the widespread diversification around the planet,” Ohio University anatomy Professor Patrick O’Connor said.

"This new dinosaur gives us important information about African fauna during a time of evolutionary change," Judy Skog, a program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences - which funded the research - added. "The discovery offers insights into paleogeography during the Cretaceous. It's also timely information about an animal with heart-shaped tail bones during this week of Valentine's Day."

The scientists acquired 45 percent of Mnyamawamtuka’s skeleton, including multiple vertebrae, front and hind limb bones, ribs and teeth, but no skull.

“This excavation was fairly involved, as the fossils were discovered eroding out of a vertical cliff surface about 20 feet (6 meters) above the dry river bed,” the professor explained.

The creature is estimated to have been about eight meters tall and weighed about one ton; not fully grown when compared to the Argentine dinosaur, Patagotitan, which measured about 37 meters long and weighed some 70 tons.

“At first, we worked merely to stabilize the falling rock and fossils, with later efforts involving climbing ropes and teams of skilled excavators. It is a fantastic setting, with monkeys, a variety of hornbills and other birds, every type of insect under the sun, complete with a very cool dinosaur skeleton,” O’Connor added.

"The discovery of dinosaurs like Mnyamawamtuka and others we have recently discovered is like doing a four-dimensional connect the dots. Each new discovery adds a bit more detail to the picture of what ecosystems on continental Africa were like during the Cretaceous, allowing us to assemble a more holistic view of biotic change in the past.”

Mnyamawamtuka means “animal of the Mtuka.”


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