South Africa has a brand new, 200-million-year-old dinosaur

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South African and Argentine scientists recently discovered that the bones of what others thought was a known, aardonyx dinosaur are actually those of a brand new creature. The fossils had been stored in South Africa's Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University since the 1930s before the discovery was made.

The researchers discuss their findings in a paper published in the online journal Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society. They call the new dinosaur Sefapanosaurus zastronensis, and they think it looked like this:


The scientists explain that the sefapanosaurus is a medium-sized basal sauropodomorph. Sauropods are vegetarian dinosaurs with long necks and long tails.

The name sefapanosaurus borrows from the South African language Sesotho. In Sesotho, "sefapano" means cross, and one of the new dino's most distinctive features is its cross-shaped ankle bones. Who knew?


In a statement, lead author Dr. Alejandro Otero said that the new dino helps explain the evolution of sauropodomorphs. And, as researcher Emil Krupandan said, the discovery also serves at a reminder that earlier researchers were maybe kind of sloppy: "This find indicates the importance of relooking at old material that has only been cursorily studied in the past, in order to re-evaluate past preconceptions about sauropodomorph diversity in light of new data."


Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.