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Africa’s Oldest Dinosaur Skeleton Discovered In Zimbabwe

An international team of paleontologists have uncovered what they believe to be the oldest dinosaur skeleton ever discovered in Africa.
Africa’s Oldest Dinosaur Skeleton Discovered In Zimbabwe
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP

Paleontologists have found and named Africa’s oldest definitive dinosaur, this week.

The Mbiresaurus raathi—described as a long-neck plant-eating dinosaur—was found in northern Zimbabwe, according to a news release Wednesday from Virginia Tech. The Mbiresaurus raathi was 6-feet-long, had a long tail, and weighed anywhere from 20 to 65 pounds. The Mbiresaurus raathi is considered a sauropodomorph, a long-necked dinosaur. 

An international team led by a Virginia Tech graduate student, Christopher Griffin, which found the dinosaur, says at 230 million years old, it’s as old as any dinosaur found anywhere in the world.

The international team of researchers who found the skeleton during two expeditions, in 2017 and 2019, said its only missing parts were some of the hand and portions of the skull.

“It shows that dinosaurs didn’t start out worldwide, ruling the world from the very beginning,” Christopher Griffin, another scientist involved in the expedition, told the BBC. “They, and the animals they lived with, seem to have been constrained to a particular environment in the far south – what is today South America, southern Africa and India.”

Griffin added that the find was the “oldest definitive dinosaur ever found in Africa.”

The skeleton is thought to date to the Carnian stage of the Triassic period, when today’s Zimbabwe was part of the massive supercontinent Pangaea.

Most of the Mbiresaurus skeleton is being kept in Virginia Tech’s Derring Hall to be cleaned and studied. However, it will eventually be transferred to the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.