Africa continues to astonish academics, scientists, and laymen alike, as more discoveries that give a glimpse into our planet’s origins and its inhabitants continue to be made on the continent.
A recent discovery, explored in Plus One, proves that approximately 8-9m tall dinosaurs roamed Southern Africa. According to an article in The Conversation authored by Lara Sciscio, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Geological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, the discovery of a megatheropod footprint was made by a group of scientists from the University of Cape Town, the University of Manchester in the UK, the Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis in Spain and the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil.
A first on the continent, a set of 57cm-long, 50cm-wide three-toed footprints – belonging to a dinosaur now called Kayentapus ambrokholohali – were discovered in western Lesotho, alongside prints of other theropod dinosaurs on a preserved palaeosurface only 2km away from the University of Lesotho. This proves the carnivores roamed the landlocked country 200 million years ago, which at the time, fell within the southern region of the supercontinent, Gondwana.
The only other instance in which evidence of carnivorous dinosaurs of such a large size were found was in the Holy Cross Mountains of central Poland. An early bipedal dinosaur’s footprint from around 246 million years ago was discovered there.
The species was named ambrokholohali in honour of retired professor and Head Research Fellow at the University of Lesotho, Emeritus Professor David Ambrose for “his detailed recording of the trace fossil heritage within Roma”. The second part of the name is derived from two Sesotho words: kholo (“large”) and hali (“very”).
Sciscio concluded: “To date, we have no body fossil material to match the K. ambrokholohali‘s footprints. Hopefully, we’ll soon discover more unusual footprints and, from there, body fossils that will help add to our understanding of the complex ancient world.”