New dinosaur discovered in SA

2009-11-11 12:48

Johannesburg - Scientists at the University of Witwatersrand on Wednesday announced the discovery of a new species of dinosaur, that appears to link the earliest dinosaurs with the large plant-eating sauropods.

"It's one of the big jewels South Africa has," Dr Adam Yates, from the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, told journalists in Johannesburg.

The vegetarian dinosaur is an estimated 195 million years old and about seven metres long; and was discovered in the town of Senekal, near Bethlehem in the Northern Free State.

It has been named Aardonyx celestae, which means "Earth Claw" ("Aard" - Afrikaans for Earth, plus "Onyx" - Greek for claw) - an appropriate name, given that the large, earth-encrusted foot claws were some of the first bones to be discovered at the site.

"We think it was a biped, a slow moving heavy bodied creature with a huge barrel chest and a small head to strip foliage," Yates said. 

A reconstruction of the skull of Aardonyx. The known parts are shaded in. (Adam Yates, University of Witwatersrand)

According to Yates it was a "living fossil" that would have been old, even amongst other dinosaurs.

"The earliest ancestral dinosaur - the great grand-daddy of all dinosaurs - walked on two legs. This one is intermediate between those bipedal forms and the true gigantic sauropods," he explained.

"It tells us the change over was not smooth, and the evolution was complicated."

The discovery was made by a Wits postgraduate palaeontology student, 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," said Yates.

  • T REX - 2009-11-11 13:19

    A slow moving heavy bodied creature with a huge barrel chest and a small head - sounds like a cross between Os du Rant and Julius Melema.

  • Pieter - 2009-11-11 13:20

    Another missing link for those who not believe in the SCIENCE of evolution..

  • Henk Voges - 2009-11-11 13:23

    No man!! It's a member of parliament!!

  • Science? - 2009-11-11 13:42

    Notice how much of the skull they've found compared to how much they've drawn themselves - amazing! Is this analogous to Evolutionary theory?

  • ITpro - 2009-11-11 13:58

    And from those view bones, they can determine the age? Carbon dating canoot go that far back...pure speculation.

  • bekkie - 2009-11-11 14:06

    It does not matter how old it seems to be. God still created it. It lived and died, the way all life on earth goes.

  • cois - 2009-11-11 14:08

    estimated 195 million years... (yawn) uh huh... if you clever scientists say so...

  • Biza - 2009-11-11 14:11

    I'm sure god can explain this lol

  • Remo - 2009-11-11 14:12

    Great discovery.

    Couldn't help laughing my but off at T REX, Pieter and Henk's comments, pretty funny.

  • Hein - 2009-11-11 14:19

    There isnt a single proof of evolution on earth.There is however cross breeding and the survival of the fittist.Even man has become 25cm longer over the last 500 years with no other changes.

  • graham@pieter - 2009-11-11 14:19

    One question still needs to be answered for one who doesnt believe in evolution, how many supposed pieces are still missing. Do we have a few pieces or a nearly completed puzzle. It is more correct to speak of evolution in terms of scientific theory. After all, there are no missing pieces of e=mc2 now are there. We call that science

  • Guy - 2009-11-11 14:21

    You can read more detail of the discovery on including how many bones and how many individuals were discovered.
    According to the paper, the bones were found in the "Upper Elliot Formation" putting the age at 183 to 200 million years.
    But do you know how they know the age of the "formations"? By the age of the fossils they find (not by atomic dating). This is circular reasoning. Use your own judgement to decide if this is a valid ageing method.

  • Aki - 2009-11-11 14:24

    Looks like they wanted the bones to be that of a dinosaur. Good piece of art.

  • Ratattack - 2009-11-11 14:26

    Pieter, you are a twit. God greated dinors - two are even mentioned in Job: Behemoth leviathan. Give it a break boet. Rather worry about how on earth life could have begun. Leading evolutionists even admit that they are absolutely clueless: and for good reason:

  • Cynical Scientist - 2009-11-11 14:37

    @Science?: It looks like about 60% of the skull is there. Does one just ignor clues unless there's a complete fossil. Looking at conservation of the number of bones in the skull across the animal taxa, it is quite often to make an estimation as to what is missing. Sometimes it's what is missing that is the most important discovery. You must remember that this fossil is not ust viewed in isolation but in comparison. Knowing Prof Yates personally, I know he is not a man to make assumptions lightly. He is the discoverer of many dinos with a focus on sauropods, so he should have some idea what the rest of the skull is likely to look like.

  • Frost - 2009-11-11 14:38

    Are you kidding me? So they draw a picture of what they think it may look like and then try to get the bones they find to fit?? Ha Ha!!!!!!!! Evolution takes more faith to believe in!!

  • Enough Said - 2009-11-11 14:44

    They found George Claasen's great grand-daddy. Sure can tell from this picture and the contents of its stomach that it must have been a herbivore. What a load of junk. Never good at puzzle but can the pieces not fit into any drawing?

  • Stunned - 2009-11-11 14:50

    Geeezz. I am stunned by the total lack of intelligence displayed in the majority of comments to this story. People this is SCIENCE and yes, here are specialists involved who actually KNOW what they are doing, It's called it! And no, they are not making all of this up....sigh...and we've got to build a nation with you guys...This is the 21st century for Pete's sake!

  • Neels - 2009-11-11 14:55

    T REX, you hit the nail on the (small) head!

  • johan - 2009-11-11 14:57

    i find this extremely interesting ... south africa, and indeed the whole continent, is a veritable "hotbed" of prehistoric large animal activity ...

    for the ignoramusus above (and you KNOW who you are) ... this comment facility is not for daft remarks ...

    jeesh ..

  • LJ - 2009-11-11 14:58

    The layout in the picture is surely based on how they found the fossil ??

  • Enough Said - 2009-11-11 14:59

    You found my grand-daddy or is it the evolutionist's daddy. I am not sure but I can surely fit the bone pieces into a picture of my Dog. This is a joke right? And they can determine from the stomach contents such as a while ago from two piles of bones in a storeroom that this thing ate grass? Stop smoking guys, your are missing it? Funny though? A good laugh

  • johan - 2009-11-11 15:05

    enough said ... stomach contents ?? .... this is not csi ... they study (amongst others) the teeth ...

  • Jaydee - 2009-11-11 15:13

    Fantastic stuff....Always good to discover more of earths history. Maybe now we can discover the genetic ballsup in JM confused stain.... Well done guys..Keep digging.

  • Interestedparty@Hein - 2009-11-11 15:21

    Quote:" Even man has grown 25cm longer in the last 500 years with no other changes "

    Question: What part are you measuring??

  • Paleo - 2009-11-11 15:24

    What about the Ancosaurus? This fearsome beast vacuumed up vast resources, and destroyed all in its wake, while leaving its lesser brethren to starve. All this while clinging stubbornly, dinosaur-like, to outmoded practices of the Malemassic age.

  • Perdeby - 2009-11-11 15:25

    I have to agree with Stunned. I can only shake my head and have a laugh at the general idiocy of mankind. It is of great concern to me that there are so MANY morons that claim they know something (or actually has an IQ reading). People (or idiots) stop making real stupid comments. Rather focus on something that is less complicated for you to understand and that doesn’t make your eyes cross over and your brain malfunction in the process. To the REAL scientists, EXCELLENT WORK. This does not happen very often. Another great discovery. Very exciting. Keep up the good work!!!

  • From goo-to-you-through-the-zoo - 2009-11-11 15:29

    @ Stunned - you need to use the brains God gave you and apply a little critical thinking on what these scientists are deceiving you with with their theory's based on presuppositions - also based on untested, non-observable theories.

    Please go to the following sites and read about real science based on truth. and

    I am fascinated about this find. It again displays the wonderful varied creation of God.

    Oh and to The Easter Bunny - I am no troll - my nic is tongue-in-cheek to emphasise the absurdity of the evolution theory(ies)

  • Unmasked - 2009-11-11 15:31

    Holy sh*t!!! I'm amazed at how many people here have no idea how scientists - palaentologists - come to the conclusions they do regarding the structure of the animals they find.. This is a field of study that has been around for well over 100 years, they know what they're doing and reconstructions based on partial finds have been done before and proven to be accurate with time.
    Just 'cos you're too ignorant to believe in evolution, etc, don't spread your stupidity here.

  • Barbara - 2009-11-11 15:31

    Awesome stuff! And for those ignorant people out there....all this is based on studies done by people who have more than two brain cells and who have spent years studying...not making useless comments about stuff they know nothing about! Get a life some decent research and you will see these guys know what they are talking about based on facts....not supposition!

  • Tinus - 2009-11-11 15:40

    Living fossils are swarming all over South Africa. Many can be found in front of their computers typing rubbish…

  • JohnnyBravo - 2009-11-11 15:50

    WHOA!!! it is quiet amazing to think that dinosaurs used to roam this very land that we call SA, great find guys. a dinosaur most probably took a dumb right where some of u guys live, explains the k@k comments from u

  • Saltwater Geologist - 2009-11-11 15:59

    For the sceptics out there (Intelligent Designists, Creationists or Illiterates), we know from radio-isotopic dating that the Elliot Formation (found stratigraphically below the Clarens Formation, which itself lies below the Karoo Volcanics) is in the region of 230 – 200Ma. The article relating to the actual Aardonyx findings explicitly states that 85% of two complete juvenile skeletons were found. The article on News24 only shows a cranial profile, whereas the actual text goes into detail on the morphological features of the complete jawbones from profile and plan views. Their morphological features are consistent with proto-sauropods (not quite, but almost sauropods). This find, although not ground-breaking, is significant in understanding the mechanisms by which species evolve on our planet. This is science; it is supportive, compelling and conclusive. If you have any doubts as to the authenticity of any of the claims made in the above article, then go find the paper: “A new transitional sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic of South Africa and the evolution of sauropod feeding and quadrupedalism” in Proceedings of the Royal Society. But please remember, any lack of understanding on the behalf of the reader does not negate the validity of the research...

  • Gerry - 2009-11-11 16:16

    Hoax ,just a piece of art for me .

  • Jill Prins - 2009-11-11 16:26

    If you believe in Evolution - then you haven't really looked into it.

  • arthur harding - 2009-11-11 16:39

    sorry for the creationist but it actually makes sense

  • Enough Said - 2009-11-11 16:47

    @johan Agree but go read the rubbish that was published about another pile of bones found a while ago? Like a said, probably I am either not believing any rubbish that scientist dish up or I must not be reading correct. So funny that they actually draw the animal and then fit the piece as they see fit, how was this determined. Either you are smoking something or you have a lot of faith in this you have to believe lived long ago. But it is a joke that you actually believe that a drawing is scientific proof and also that you were not there when they took it from a dead sheep that it is scientific proof. And then people with religious views are space cadets? So funny

  • Elle - 2009-11-11 16:48

    Thanks Stunned - I coudn't have said it better!

  • Ouklip - 2009-11-11 18:44

    When I saw the headline, "New dinosaur discovered in SA" I thought not fair. We have the SACP and AWB can we deal with another.
    I reckon the chances that the scientists are correct are infinitely more possible than any of Paul’s dogma in the new testament.

  • nic@pieter - 2009-11-11 20:27

    Well done guys for finding these bones. It is always exciting epecially when a new species is discovered. However Pieter it does not probe evolution. It simply proves that God created more kinds than what we could even imagine and that many species have died out. Similarities do not prove evolution and while not an expert, I believe it is a major jump Pieter to call this a link. Amazing that you can move from a single celled amoeba to a creature this size. I believe he was made, multiplied after their kind, adapted to their environment because they had the necessary information in their DNA to do that, and they seized to exist.

  • Something Foul - 2009-11-11 21:55

    "We think it was a biped, a slow moving heavy bodied creature with a huge barrel chest and a small head to strip foliage," Yates said. Mmmm, sounds like speculation to me. Interesting teeth for a dino supposedly eating vegetaion. Compared to modern day strippers of vegetation, the teeth look almost carniverous!?? Not many bones were found, two individuals were used to make up the data of what it is thought to look like. Much speculation is inolved in such recontructions, and it is admitted by paleontologists themselves, thus the word "we think". Wonder what vegetation they really ate for those teeth??

  • LuftFan - 2009-11-11 22:29

    I agree with Stunned.

    If you do not know anything about science, keep your mouth shut. We gave you cellphones and computers. Go play with these toys while we get on with proper business.


  • SB - 2009-11-12 01:19

  • t-plus - 2009-11-12 03:25

    Knowledge is power yet stagnation is anathema. People must stop running their mouths without relevant information and further mislead this forum. The people who are dealing with this discovery are specialists in this regard that is why they are professors by qualification not self proclamation. So honorable ladies and gentleman, this is not a general topic. How about all of those who are clueless like me, we shut up and give the platform to those who can shed the lights with facts .Let the academics and scientists play their role in educating us. Let them debate the issue, then based on that debate we can choose who makes a lot of sense. That is where we will come in which is conclusion.

  • Scientist - 2009-11-12 04:08

    As a biological scientist who knows, understands and believes in evolution, I have only one thing to say to those who do not: leave science to the scientists. If you do not understand it (ie evolution) then don't try and argue it with people who actually know what we are talking about. It is a waste of our time, time that we could be using to find even MORE proof of it than we already have.

  • T REX was funny - 2009-11-12 05:03

    Its brilliant if the first quote is the best. Excellent remark.

  • Arby - 2009-11-12 07:26

    Why are there so many IDIOTS commenting on this article??!

  • Big R - 2009-11-12 07:38

    Amazing to see that IF this is a dino, then my goodness gratious me! God made some wonderful creatures LESS than 8000 years ago. Sweet bananas!! Now i'm in for it ;-)

  • bev18 - 2009-11-12 07:49

    Oh I believe they foudn this creature, its the date they seem to have mixed up. There is this most amazing fossil place in the Karoo.........'JP has possibly one of the largest fossil collections anywhere. The Profs from Wits all go there to learn from him. Dinosaurs are the last of the 'strange' creatures, before man came along. JP's collection predates all of that. err..dinosaurs, according the the real experts, and based on the evidence found there, only go back 25 million years.

  • Rockman - 2009-11-12 08:03

    It is fantastic to see new dinosaur bones being found in South-Africa, regardless what the sceptics and uninformed twits think. Making comments on Archeological finds without reading books about it is like commenting on different religions without reading their scriptures or bibles.