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Home >News >World >Scientists discover Sefapanosaurus dinosaur with cross-shaped ankle bone

Johannesburg: Palaeontologists have discovered a 200 million-year-old long-necked, herbivorous dinosaur, with an ankle bone shaped like a cross, in South Africa.

The researchers from South Africa’s University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University), and from the Argentinian Museo de La Plata and Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio named the dinosaur Sefapanosaurus, after the Sesotho word “sefapano", meaning “cross".

The specimen was found in the late 1930s in the Zastron area of South Africa’s Free State province, about 30 km from the Lesotho border. For many years it remained hidden among the fossil collection at the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at Wits University. A few years ago it was studied and considered to represent the remains of another South African dinosaur, Aardonyx.

However, upon further study, close scrutiny of the fossilised bones showed that it was a completely new dinosaur.

One of the most distinctive features is that one of its ankle bones, the astragalus, is shaped like a cross.

“The discovery of Sefapanosaurus shows that there were several of these transitional early sauropodomorph dinosaurs roaming around southern Africa about 200 million years ago," said Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, co-author and Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at UCT. Dr Alejandro Otero, Argentinian palaeontologist and lead author, said.

Sefapanosaurus helps to fill the gap between the earliest sauropodomorphs and the gigantic sauropods.

“Sefapanosaurus constitutes a member of the growing list of transitional sauropodomorph dinosaurs from Argentina and South Africa that are increasingly telling us about how they diversified," Otero said.

Argentinian co-author, Dr Diego Pol, said Sefapanosaurus and other recent dinosaur discoveries in the two countries show that the diversity of herbivorous dinosaurs in Africa and South America was remarkably high back in the Jurassic, about 190 million years ago when the southern hemisphere continents were a single supercontinent known as Gondwana.

The remains of the Sefapanosaurus include limb bones, foot bones, and several vertebrae. Sefapanosaurus is represented by the remains of at least four individuals in the ESI collections at Wits University. It is considered to be a medium-sized sauropodomorph dinosaur - among the early members of the group that gave rise to the later long necked giants of the Mesozoic.

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