Scientists say they discovered the first fossil of a dinosaur in Angola.
The animal was a long-necked, plant-eating sauropod, one of the largest creatures ever to have walked the earth. The fossil was found alongside fish and shark teeth in what would have been a sea bed 90 million years ago, leading its discoverers to believe the dinosaur might have been washed into the sea and torn apart by ancient sharks. The dinosaur was dubbed Angolatitan adamastor – Angolatitan means “Angolan giant” and the adamastor is a sea giant in Portuguese sailing myths.
Matthew F. Bonnan, a sauropod expert at Western Illinois University said:
“I think they’ve been very careful…The neat thing about dinosaur paleontology is that it’s becoming more global…The more people and places that we involve in science, the better off we all are…”
This was the first archeological expedition in Angola in 70 years. An anti-colonial war broke out in that country in the 1960s; civil war followed independence from Portugal in 1975.
PaleoAngola member Octavio Mateus of Portugal’s Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Museum of Lourinha indicated a lack of money has been the major barrier to research.
Tatiana Tavares of the Universidade Agostinho Neto is also on the PaleoAngola team, and her Luanda, Angola university has Angolaitan adamastor fossil specimens on display publically. Other specimens in Portugal are to be returned later to the university.
When I came across this piece of news, my mind immediately fell to the Archaeopteryx. This was a bird/dinosaur combo that flew around 65 million years ago or so. It was purported to be the missing link between birds and reptiles. Apparently, they found another type of these flying reptiles in China.
“The extensive feathering of this specimen, particularly the attachment of long pennaceous feathers to the pes, sheds new light on the early evolution of feathers and demonstrates the complex distribution of skeletal and integumentary features close to the dinosaur-bird transition”, researchers from the Shenyang Normal University wrote.
The fossil is 160 million years old, and is the oldest of its kind to be found so far. At that date, it is millions of years older than the archaeopteryx, putting it at the forefront of being the missing link instead.
Discoveries before this one had put archaeologists in a little bit of a temporal pickle because the fossils found were younger than the fossils of birds they had found. So that didn’t really work out so well. What might have happened is birds and reptiles splitting off evolutionarily from this guy millions of years before, and then you’d have both the hybrids and the birds showing up in the fossil record after. The only thing that could mess up the chronology now would be a 160 million year old bird fossil.
The research findings will also be published in “Nature” magazine on Oct. 1. Take a look at it there for a more in depth survey.