The Titanozas were giants of giants – the four-legged giants that roamed around South America and Africa 100 million years ago. The discovery of a previously unknown titanosaurus in Tanzania with a unique core coccyx adds to our knowledge of these mysterious beasts and how they lived and evolved on the African continent.
The name of this new titan-Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, pronounced "Mum-ma-va-mm-also-ka-mm-o-yo-va-mm-key-ah" – a riverbed near the rock along the East African Tearing System in southwestern Tanzania, where fossil bones were restored to 100 million years ago. And as his name suggests, this chalk had a strange heart-shaped cavity whose function is not clear to paleontologists.
Mnyamawamtuka was opened in 2004 and it takes four years to allow field paleontologists to perform the necessary excavation work. Restored body parts include the spine, shoulder, and legs, along with remnants of the neck, thigh, tail and arm. Unfortunately, his skull could not be found. Enough pieces have been restored to allow Eric Gorskak of the Midwest University and Patrick O'Connor of the University of Ohio to conduct an analysis and compare the dinosaur with similar specimens. Details of their findings were published today at PLoS ONE, 15 years after the fossils were first discovered.
"The time required to discover, excavate, study and publish a new dinosaur is a lengthy process and requires many people-hours at different stages," Gorskak told Gizmodo. "A skeleton with many bones requires a lot of patience to prepare – such as removing the other rocks surrounding the fossils and fixing any damage – and then exploring what this animal is and how it connects with other dinosaurs."
Other important discoveries of dinosaurs also hindered timely analysis, including studies by the Rukwatitan and Shingopanatwo other Titanosaurs found in Tanzania. Given the workload, Gorskek and O'Connor had to plan their priorities for their research focus.
"I would also say that one of the most neglected factors is life itself," added Gorskak. "And we, the paleontologists, live not only for fossils for us 24 hours a day but also for loved ones!
The restored Mnyamawamtuka The skeleton belonged to a relatively small individual of titanose, probably young, who was not yet fully developed. The average person is approximately the height of his hind legs and weighs around a tone. The full size of the cultivation Mnyamawamtuka can not be extracted from this skeleton.
Characteristics other than Mnyamawamtuka include a small sternal plate (chest bone) and a curious scar of scars seen in both earlier and later types of titanose, including different styles of teeth. As noted, this super-expanded sauropod had a hindquarter, consisting of two vertebrae vertebrae with visible extensions of the center (the center of the vertebrae).
"We are not quite sure of their functional significance," said Gorskak. "This may be something related to the stability between the tail bones or some bracket for the spinal cord.
Other nearby titanoses, including Malawisaurus from nearby Malawi, is also known to have these extensions, but to a lesser extent, said Gorskak.
Mnyamawamtuka They lived along a flood or river delta that had survived wet and dry seasons, according to geological studies. The animals that lived with her included other four-legged, long-lived sauropods, carnivorous dinosaur theropods, turtles and relatives of today's crocodiles.
Titanozas are usually associated with fossils found in South America, but as this discovery and others begin to show up, the African landscape is also an important part of their history.
"Much of what we know about the evolutionary history of the Titanozur comes from many species known from South America. But in the early half of the Cretaceous, Africa and South America were still connected before they split around the middle of the chalk, "Gorskak said. "What we see with recent discoveries from Africa, such as Rukwatitan, Mansourasaurus, Shingopana, and now Mnyamawamtukais that titanozaurs are likely to be as varied as their South American counterparts and may have had a rough division between the northern and southern half of Africa. "
Stephen Poropat, a paleontologist at the Melbourne Technology University, Australia, who did not take part in the new job, said the importance of Mnyamawamtuka the specimen is full, combined with age and geographic location.
"It is extremely noticeable to have so many bones, which are most of the body parts, by one person," said Poropat of Gizmodo. "This means that Mnyamawamtuka will probably be one of the most important African Titanozurs discovered so far, as it can help us understand where other African Titanosaurs fit into the tyrant tree.
Indeed, this discovery, along with those in the future, will help scientists better understand how these impressive animals evolved in response to the ever-changing environment – and why the size obviously really, really meaning.[PLOS ONE]