Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Earth Claw': New species of vegetarian dinosaur close to common ancestor of gigantic sauropods

Date:
November 12, 2009
Source:
University of the Witwatersrand
Summary:
A new species of dinosaur from the early Jurassic period, approximately 195 million years old, has been discovered in South Africa. Dubbed Aardonyx ("Earth Claw"), the seven-meter-long vegetarian dinosaur gives paleontologists a glimpse into the evolution of giant sauropods that once roamed the prehistoric world.

The right premaxilla, a bone from the tip of the snout. The two prongs partly enclose the giant nostril characteristic of this species. The tips of two teeth can be seen protruding from the bottom edge.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of the Witwatersrand

The discovery of a new species of dinosaur from the early Jurassic period (approximately 195 million years old and seven metres long) has been announced and described by Dr Adam Yates, the primary investigator and a palaeontologist from the Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research (BPI) from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The vegetarian dinosaur, one of three discovered at the same site, was named Aardonyx celestae -- the genus name (Aardonyx) means "Earth Claw," (Aard -- Afrikaans for Earth) and (Onyx -- Greek for claw) an appropriate name, given that the large, earth-encrusted foot claws were some of the first bones to be discovered in the town of Senekal, near Bethlehem in the Northern Free State, in South Africa. The species name (celestae) is given to acknowledge the work of Celeste Yates who prepared much of the fossil.

"This species is important as the Aardonyx was an animal close to the common ancestor of the gigantic sauropod dinosaurs," explains Yates. "Sauropods, known popularly as "brontosaurs," were the largest backboned animals to walk on land with their long necks, tree-trunk legs and whip-like tails. Some were even longer and exceeded 100 feet (about 30 metres) in length. Aardonyx gives us a glimpse into what the first steps towards becoming a sauropod involved."

The discovery was made by a Wits postgraduate palaeontology student, Mr Marc Blackbeard, who began excavating two sites in the Northern Free State, five years ago, under the leadership of Yates. "We knew that there was likely to be some fossils in these 'bone beds' discovered by James Kitching about 20 years ago, but we did not expect to find anything of this magnitude," says Yates.

Yates elaborates on the anatomy of Aardonyx celestae: "The dinosaur had a wide-gaping mouth, bracing joints in the back vertebrae that made the backbone rigid enough to support great weight and a forearm and hand capable of grasping and supporting weight. Growth rings in the rib and shoulder blade sections show that Aardonyx was not full grown -- it was probably less than 10 years old when it died near a river or stream."

He adds: "Aardonyx probably walked on its hind legs but could drop onto all fours as well. It had flattened feet with large claws that supported body weight on the inside of the foot and a robust thigh bone (femur) for supporting weight."

Dr Chinsamy-Turan a Wits graduate and a Vertebrate Paleohistologist at UCT concurs: "My analysis of the bone microstructure in the ribs and shoulder blades of Aardonyx suggests that while it had experienced at least seven spurts or cycles of growth, it was not a fully grown animal."

According to Dr Matthew Bonnan, a Vertebrate Paleobiologist, Department of Biological Sciences and an author of the paper, they already knew that the earliest sauropods and near-sauropods would be bipeds. "What Aardonyx shows us, however, is that walking quadrupedally and bearing weight on the inside of the foot is a trend that started very early in these dinosaurs, much earlier than previously hypothesised. The bones of the forearm are shaped like those of sauropods -- this means that the forearm and hand could bear weight and that Aardonyx could drop onto all-fours as well as walk bipedally."

Dr Johann Neveling, a Geologist from the Council for Geosciences in Pretoria, also an author of the paper, says that geology suggests that Aardonyx lived near an oasis on the outskirts of a vast desert.

The discovery was published on 11 November 2009 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The lead author is Dr Adam Yates and the other authors of the paper, in order of precedence, are: Dr Matthew F Bonnan (Vertebrate Paleobiologist, Department of Biological Sciences, Western Illinois University, USA); Dr Johann Neveling (Geologist, Council for Geosciences, Pretoria); Dr Anusuya Chinsamy (a Wits graduate and a Vertebrate Paleohistologist at UCT) and Mr Marc Blackbeard (Graduate Student, BPI, Wits).

The Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research is part of the School of Geosciences in the Faculty of Science of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Its mission is to collect, conserve, study and interpret the rich fossil heritage of South and southern Africa, and to make its findings known through its research, teaching and public engagement activities both in South Africa and beyond.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of the Witwatersrand. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Adam M. Yates, Matthew F. Bonnan, Johann Neveling, Anusuya Chinsamy, and Marc G. Blackbeard. A new transitional sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic of South Africa and the evolution of sauropod feeding and quadrupedalism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2009; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1440

Cite This Page:

University of the Witwatersrand. "'Earth Claw': New species of vegetarian dinosaur close to common ancestor of gigantic sauropods." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091111151237.htm>.
University of the Witwatersrand. (2009, November 12). 'Earth Claw': New species of vegetarian dinosaur close to common ancestor of gigantic sauropods. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091111151237.htm
University of the Witwatersrand. "'Earth Claw': New species of vegetarian dinosaur close to common ancestor of gigantic sauropods." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091111151237.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins