Better break out the family album. A new species of dinosaur has been unearthed in Tanzania. It’s no lightweight either. Scientists working on the excavation estimate a Rukwatitan bisepultus weighed as much as several elephants.
The new dinosaur species also roamed the area the fossil was recovered in around 100 million years ago. It belongs to the titanosaurian class, a group of large-bodied sauropods that thrived in the dinosaurs’ twilight years before extinction.
The find wasn’t without some difficulty. Scientists first spotted the fossils embedded in a cliff in the Rukwa Rift Basin in southwestern Tanzania. Not exactly the most ideal spot for a dig. After calling in coal miners and professional excavators, scientists were able to unearth vertebra, limbs, pelvic bones and ribs. The dig spanned two field seasons.
CT scans were used to determine the species, and researchers discovered the bones were different from others, including those previously discovered in Africa. Enter Rukwatitan bisepultus.
Eric Gorscak, a doctoral student from Ohio University, released a statement on the research. “Using both traditional and new computational approaches, we were able to place the new species within the family tree of sauropod dinosaurs and determine both its uniqueness as a species and to delineate others species with which it is most closely related.”
The find allows scientists to further study the titanosaurian class of dinosaurs. Only four fossils have been found in Africa, with 30 more found in South America. Every fossil field counts when researching the class of massive dinosaurs.
The finds in Africa help fill in the gap in a large part of the world. Researchers are already learning a lot from the South American discovery, but the African finds help fill in the blanks of the sauropods.
If you want to read the entire study, it has been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.