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International excitement as a new dinosaur species is discovered in an old South African museum exhibit

James de Villiers , Business Insider SA
 Aug 06, 2019, 05:51 AM
The skull which has been in the University of Witw
The skull which has been in the University of Witwatersrand's collection for over 30 years, but was misidentified (supplied)
  • A new dinosaur species was discovered among a 30-year-old fossil collection at the Wits University. 
  • Scientists found that the fossils were previously misidentified.
  • The new plant-eating species measured roughly 4 metres in length, and is estimated have weighed up to 300kg. 
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Scientists discovered a new dinosaur species in a 30-year-old University of the Witwatersrand fossil collection. 

The near-complete 200-million-year-old fossil was collected from a farm in the Fouriesburg,  Free State, in 1978 and has been part of an exhibit at the university’s Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) since.

It was first misidentified as a specimen of Massospondylus, an existing dinosaur species. 

The Natural History Museum in London’s professor Paul Barrett and his PhD student Kimberley Chapelle, however, compared the skeleton, which includes a nearly complete skull, with similar fossils at the museum. 

They found that it not only represented a new species but also belonged to an entirely new genus because of bone differences, particularly in the size of the skull. 

Their discovery was first published in the scientific journal PeerJ, and has been publicised around the world via Sky News, CNN, The Guardian and other news outlets.  

The creature, named Ngwevu Intloko (isiXhosa for “grey skull”) measured roughly 4 metres in length and is estimated have weighed up to 300kg. 

Ngwevu intloko would have looked similar to the Ma
Ngwevu intloko would have looked similar to the Massospondylus seen here (Nobu Tamura, Wikimedia Commons)

It walked on its back legs and had a barrel-shaped body, a long, slender neck and a small, boxy skull. 

Though predominantly believed to have been a plant-eater, Ngwevu may have consumed small animals too.

Barret said it used to be commonly believed that there was only one type of long-necked herbivorous dinosaurs, known as sauropodomorph dinosaurs, in South Africa after a mass extinction between the Triassic and Jurassic periods, around 200 million years ago. 

“The high degree of diversity and varied appearance of these dinosaurs not only questions whether Massospondylus is indeed [an organism which developed after an extinction], but also how groups of animals responded to large extinction events in the past,” Barret said. 

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