Hunting dinosaur bones

Hunting dinosaur bones

In Africa almost every single dinosaur fossil unearthed is a new species. Despite its rich palaeontology, the continent’s dinosaurs have been largely ignored. Nevertheless, the history of hunting for dinosaur bones in Africa is an extraordinary tale dating back almost to when the study of palaeontology was born.

According to the British Natural History Museum the first dinosaur discovered by scientists in the southern hemisphere was found in South Africa just three years after the word ‘dinosaur’ was created by Sir Richard Owen in 1842.

During the nineteenth century the largest dinosaur expedition of all time and world-wide was not conducted in North America or Europe as many might expect, but in Tanzania in East Africa.

“Between 1909 and 1913 teams of scientists from the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, visited a site called Tendaguru in what was then German East Africa. The colonial expedition used hundreds of local workers to collect 225 tons of material from an area spanning 80 square kilometres. From this they excavated thousands and thousands of fragmented dinosaur fossils.

Eventually, scientists would piece these together to describe a number of new species, including the short-necked long neck Dicraeosaurus, spikey Kentrosaurus and towering above them all, Giraffatitan. All of these fossils remain in Germany to this day.

In 1928 Sidney H. Haughton unearthed the Malawisaurus dixeyi in the “Dinosaur Beds” of Northern Malawi. Malawisaurus means the Malawi lizard and is an extinct genus of titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur. The “Dinosaur Beds” of northern Malawi dates to the Aptian stage of the Early Cretaceous.

There was much excitement last week when scientists discovered what they would name the Musankwa sanyantiensis in the Matusadona National Park in Zimbabwe. Musankwa is only the fourth dinosaur species ever found in Zimbabwe. The right leg of Musankwa was discovered in the southern shore of Lake Kariba.

It is believed that Musankwa stood at a height of 1.5m at the hip and walked on two feet. Using comparisons with other sauropodomorphs of similar size, the team estimates that this dinosaur weighed around 386kg.

The dinosaur story, like much in Africa, will remain untold, unless we go dig and start telling the real African story!

Hunting dinosaur bones
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