Dino track in Lesotho

2017-10-29 05:49
(Herman Eloff/Channel)

(Herman Eloff/Channel)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

For the woman who led the team of palaeontologists who discovered the three- toed footprint of a giant theropod dinosaur, it was a childhood dream come true.

Lara Sciscio (31) and her team – which included academics from Britain’s University of Manchester and Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo – came across the dazzling new find in Lesotho.

The discovery sparked the interest and attention of scientists from all over the world.

The find proves the existence of a ferocious carnivore that roamed the southern African region in the Early Jurassic era.

“Our team was really excited as we knew it was something very unusual. I think we were all in shock and giddy disbelief,” Sciscio said, a postdoctoral student researcher at the University of Cape Town.

Sciscio, a geoscientist, said it was an unexpected, extraordinary discovery and “almost unreal”.

It has been her childhood dream to study rocks and ancient paleoenvironments, and she did not expect to find a giant theropod trackway.

Sciscio said that for the past few years, she and her team worked on a larger fossil footprint project which incorporates South African and Basotho fossil sites.

“This particular project, on the very large tracks, started early 2016 and we did our main analytical field work towards the end of 2016,” she said.

The 57cm long and 50cm wide footprint provides an estimate on the colossal size of the carnivore. Estimated to be 3m tall at the waist and 8m to 9m long, this dinosaur is four times the size of today’s largest African predator, the lion.

The footprints of the megathoropod, called Kayentapus ambrokholohali, were found while the scientists were heading towards another site indicated by Professor David Ambrose, a former research fellow at the University of Limpopo.

Sciscio named the dinosaur after Ambrose. Ambrose is derived from the Latin name Ambrosius, meaning “immortal”.

The species is a precursor to the well-known Tyrannosaurus rex.

The tracks were found on a paleosurface – over 200 million years old – which was probably a watering hole or a river. The researchers established this due to the “ripple marks” and “dessication cracks” on the surface.

The tracks, Sciscio said, are more tangible than fossils and give a view of the animal in a more holistic way.

The dinosaur roamed the land during the Early Jurassic period, when southern Africa was still part of the Gondwana supercontinent.

Researchers believe it preyed on herbivorous dinosaurs in the region.

Despite an abundance of prints, the team is still trying to find fossils to match.

Sciscio will be continuing her postdoctoral research on tracks and trackways within the Karoo Basin.

“I do hope that I can continue to produce interesting and useful science in the years to come as I am still an early-career

“I also hope that I can continue to pursue my active interests in the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic geology and ichnology of southern Africa,” she added.

Read more on:    lesotho  |  animals

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.