dinosaur museum

March 2019 Newsletter

FROM THE EDUCATION DESK

Interesting facts for this month: In 1732, George Washington was born in Virginia at his father’s plantation in Popes Creek, and in 1792 President Washington signed the postal Service Act into law, creating the United States Postal Office Department.

FYI: Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia

This titanosaur lived during the middle Cretaceous period in Tanzania, and it is the only one of its kind that has been found. This large, long-necked dinosaur belonged to the sauropod group, known as the largest land animals on Earth. During the Late Cretaceous period, when the other sauropods had disappeared, the titanosaurs flourished and diversified. In Swahili the name means “animal of the Mtuka with a heart-shaped tail.” The researchers, funded by the US National Science Foundation, were suspended by ropes to excavate the fossils from a cliff wall in the quarry by the Mtuka River in southwest Tanzania. Mechanical excavators also helped remove the giant fossil. The skeleton may have eroded during one of the intense wet seasons if it had been left much longer said Patrick O’Connor, professor of anatomy at Ohio University. The fossil is one of the more complete titanosaurs recovered in Africa, and it includes teeth, ribs, vertebrae and limb bones. The centrum of its tail vertebrae is heart-shaped, which contributed to its name. Some characteristics of the bones suggest that It may have been a juvenile and probably weighed about a ton and was about as tall as a person from foot to hip.. It isn’t the biggest titanosaur found…that was a 130 ft. long cousin of this newfound species Argentinosaurus hyiculensis.

Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia in its environmental setting. Image credit: Mark Witton.

“Although titanosaurs became one of the most successful dinosaur groups, their early evolutionary history remains obscure, and Mnyamawamtuka helps tell those beginnings, especially for their Africa side of the story,” says Eric Gorscak, research associate at the Field Museum of Natural History. Gorscak continues by saying “The wealth of information from this skeleton indicates it was distantly related to other known African titanosaurs. “This new dinosaur gives us important information about African fauna during a time of evolutionary change,” says Judy Skog, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences. “It offers insights into paleogeography during the Cretaceous”, she goes on to say. These discoveries in Africa show us how the first titanosaurs probably emerged in what was the supercontinent called Gondwana and then started evolving separately after what today are Africa and South America started drifting apart. The history of African titansosaurs, could be crucial to fully understand the history of this group of dinosaurs that became so large. This is an important find in understanding how some of the biggest dinosaurs of all time grew and changed over time.
Read more about this dinosaur in PLOS ONE, Feb.13, 2019.

Education Director
Geri LeBold

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr. Suess

 

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