A group of researchers working at an archaeological site in Lesotho have discovered what it believes is the world’s largest dinosaur footprint. The rare discovery has led the team to conclude that an enormous carnivorous dinosaur walked across Southern Africa some 200 million years ago.
Based on the footprint, the dinosaur, named Kayentapus ambrokholohali, is estimated to have been 2.7 meters tall and nine meters long, which makes it the largest dinosaur to ever walk on the continent.
Fabien Knoll, a member of the research team, which was led by the University of Cape Town, says the finding is in direct contradiction to the existing comprehension of the types of dinosaurs that existed 200 million years ago, particularly during the Jurassic period.
“This discovery means that there are only two sites in the world where such large carnivorous dinosaurs were found as far back as 200 million years ago – Poland and now Lesotho,” Lara Sciscio, a postdoctoral research fellow in Geological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, told Al Jazeera.
Previously, the large carnivorous two-legged dinosaurs, also referred to as theropods, were believed to be smaller in size, with some fossil records showing that the beasts were approximately 3-5 meters long.
But the latest footprint, which was discovered in Matobo, Western Lesotho, suggests that full-grown theropods may have been nine meters long. The only existing records of larger dinosaurs were made in the Cretaceous period, some 145 million years ago, according to Al Jazeera.
“This is an important discovery because the footprints found were the biggest of their epoch [Early Jurassic] in the whole of Gondwana [the prehistoric continent that later broke up to become Africa and other continents],” Knoll was quoted by Al Jazeera.
The field evidence of the discovery was put together in the form of macroscopic observations of the ichnofossil bearing sedimentary rocks and their vertical and lateral distribution at the site.
The footprint’s protrusion was then photographed and documented in several lithological, geometric and sedimentary structures.
Describing the discovery as “unprecedented” and “unexpected”, Sciscio says the footprint indicates a deeper and more complicated history of the African planet.
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of reptiles of the family “Dinosauria”, which first appeared during the Triassic period about 251 million years ago. They became the dominant terrestrial vertebrates after the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event that happened some 201 million years ago.
Records show that birds are the modern feathered dinosaurs that evolved from the lineage of theropods during the Jurassic period.