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Giant Dinosaur

Giant Dinosaur

WFS News: Dinosaur from the Earliest Jurassic of South Africa

A Giant Dinosaur from the Earliest Jurassic of South Africa and the Transition to Quadrupedality in Early Sauropodomorphs

A new species of a giant dinosaur has been found in South Africa’s Free State Province. The plant-eating dinosaur, named Ledumahadi mafube, weighed 12 tonnes and stood about four metres high at the hips. Ledumahadi mafube was the largest land animal alive on Earth when it lived, nearly 200 million years ago. It was roughly double the size of a large African elephant. A team of international scientists, led by University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) palaeontologist Professor Jonah Choiniere, described the new species in the journal Current Biology today.

The dinosaur’s name is Sesotho for “a giant thunderclap at dawn” (Sesotho is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages and an indigenous language in the area where the dinosaur was found).

“The name reflects the great size of the animal as well as the fact that its lineage appeared at the origins of sauropod dinosaurs,” said Choiniere. “It honours both the recent and ancient heritage of southern Africa.”

Ledumahadi mafube is one of the closest relatives of sauropod dinosaurs. Sauropods, weighing up to 60 tonnes, include well-known species like Brontosaurus. All sauropods ate plants and stood on four legs, with a posture like modern elephants. Ledumahadi evolved its giant size independently from sauropods, and although it stood on four legs, its forelimbs would have been more crouched. This caused the scientific team to consider Ledumahadi an evolutionary “experiment” with giant body size.

Ledumahadi‘s fossil tells a fascinating story not only of its individual life history, but also the geographic history of where it lived, and of the evolutionary history of sauropod dinosaurs.

“The first thing that struck me about this animal is the incredible robustness of the limb bones,” says lead author, Dr Blair McPhee. “It was of similar size to the gigantic sauropod dinosaurs, but whereas the arms and legs of those animals are typically quite slender, Ledumahadi‘s are incredibly thick. To me this indicated that the path towards gigantism in sauropodomorphs was far from straightforward, and that the way that these animals solved the usual problems of life, such as eating and moving, was much more dynamic within the group than previously thought.”

The research team developed a new method, using measurements from the “arms” and “legs” to show that Ledumahadi walked on all fours, like the later sauropod dinosaurs, but unlike many other members of its own group alive at its time such as Massospondylus. The team also showed that many earlier relatives of sauropods stood on all fours, that this body posture evolved more than once, and that it appeared earlier than scientists previously thought.

“Many giant dinosaurs walked on four legs but had ancestors that walked on two legs. Scientists want to know about this evolutionary change, but amazingly, no-one came up with a simple method to tell how each dinosaur walked, until now,” says Dr Roger Benson.

By analysing the fossil’s bone tissue through osteohistological analysis, Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink from the South African National Museum in Bloemfontein established the animal’s age.

“We can tell by looking at the fossilised bone microstructure that the animal grew rapidly to adulthood. Closely-spaced, annually deposited growth rings at the periphery show that the growth rate had decreased substantially by the time it died,” says Botha-Brink. This indicates that the animal had reached adulthood.

“It was also interesting to see that the bone tissues display aspects of both basal sauropodomorphs and the more derived sauropods, showing that Ledumahadi represents a transitional stage between these two major groups of dinosaurs.”

Ledumahadi lived in the area around Clarens in South Africa’s Free State Province. This is currently a scenic mountainous area, but looked much different at that time, with a flat, semi-arid landscape and shallow, intermittently dry streambeds.

“We can tell from the properties of the sedimentary rock layers in which the bone fossils are preserved that 200 million years ago most of South Africa looked a lot more like the current region around Musina in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, or South Africa’s central Karoo,” says Dr Emese Bordy.

Ledumahadi is closely related to other gigantic dinosaurs from Argentina that lived at a similar time, which reinforces that the supercontinent of Pangaea was still assembled in the Early Jurassic. “It shows how easily dinosaurs could have walked from Johannesburg to Buenos Aires at that time,” says Choiniere.

South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says the discovery of this dinosaur underscores just how important South African palaeontology is to the world.

“Not only does our country hold the Cradle of Humankind, but we also have fossils that help us understand the rise of the gigantic dinosaurs. This is another example of South Africa taking the high road and making scientific breakthroughs of international significance on the basis of its geographic advantage, as it does in astronomy, marine and polar research, indigenous knowledge, and biodiversity,” says Kubayi-Ngubane.

The research team behind Ledumahadi includes South African-based palaeoscientists, Dr Emese Bordy and Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink, from the University of Cape Town and the South African National Museum in Bloemfontein, respectively.

The project also had a strong international component with the collaboration of Professor Roger BJ Benson of Oxford University and Dr Blair McPhee, currently residing in Brazil.

“South Africa employs some of the world’s top palaeontologists and it was a privilege to be able to build a working group with them and leading researchers in the UK,” says Choiniere, who recently emigrated from the USA to South Africa. “Dinosaurs didn’t observe international boundaries and it’s important that our research groups don’t either.”


Journal Reference: Blair W. McPhee, Roger B.J. Benson, Jennifer Botha-Brink, Emese M. Bordy, Jonah N. Choiniere. A Giant Dinosaur from the Earliest Jurassic of South Africa and the Transition to Quadrupedality in Early Sauropodomorphs. Current Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.063

@ WFS,World Fossil Society,Riffin T Sajeev,Russel T Sajeev

Traditional South-African dishes

Traditional South-African dishes

Here are 10 traditional South-African dishes that reflect the country’s diverse culture and palate.

Probably the most-loved South-African snack, biltong is a dried, cured, and spiced meat. While not as sweet, biltong and American beef jerky share some similarities. Beef biltong remains a favourite, but venison biltong is also popular. More unconventional versions, like chicken biltong, are also available.

Boerewors, a type of sausage made from beef mince, must have at least 90% meat to qualify as boerewors. The mince mixture contains spices such as coriander, cloves, and nutmeg, and has a very distinct taste. Many locals like to make their own boerewors, and it’s guaranteed to be one of the meats served at a braai.

Bobotie, a dinner-time favourite, consists of spiced mince, an egg-based topping, and traditionally raisins or sultanas that are added to the mixture. The dish has a sweet taste, a Cape Malay influence, and it includes curry, turmeric and often almonds.

Koeksisters is a tasty tea-time treat made by frying pleated-dough pieces, koeksisters become even sweeter after adding a sugary syrup. It has  a golden, crunchy crust, a soft, doughnut-like centre, and are super sticky.

Malva pudding, of Cape Dutch origin, contains apricot jam, is saucy, and has a spongy texture with a caramel taste. Once taken out of the oven, those who bake it add a cream-based sauce over the pudding. This results in a sticky and soft yet cake-like dessert. A favourite among South Africans, it is normally served with hot custard or vanilla ice cream.

It’s rare to meet South Africans who say they don’t enjoy this traditional Miltart. It is a pie-like dessert consisting of a sweet pastry crust and a creamy filling made of milk, flour, sugar, and eggs. It can be bought whole at most supermarkets, and almost every family has their own secret recipe.

Clarens attracts more and more tourists daily

Clarens attracts more and more tourists daily

This quaint little country town in the Free State has become one of SA’s favourite tourist destinations.

The popular Free State town Clarens was named after the Swiss village of Clarens where Paul Kruger spent his last days in voluntary exile. Founded in 1912, Clarens is situated 20km from Golden Gate, 40km from Bethlehem and borders the northern most point of Lesotho.

The town is conveniently located three hours from Johannesburg and Bloemfontein and four hours from Durban.

Known for its spectacular sandstone mountains and wonderful climate, Clarens is an inspiration. When not exploring the beautiful countryside, visitors can enjoy the many fine art galleries, shops and restaurants. Clarens also offers a wide range of outdoor and sporting activities ranging from the Clarens Golf Club to some of the finest trout and fly-fishing in the country.

Other activities include river rafting, abseiling, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, quad biking, clay pigeon shooting, 4x4 trails, tennis, squash and bowls.


What made a tourist town such as Clarens succeed whereas other towns faltered and failed?

The decline of towns is a common phenomenon. Since larger centres have strong economic bases and offer higher order services these cities attract people. What should towns do to intercept migrants on their way to larger centres in search of perceived better opportunities?


Clarens was established in 1912 as a retirement town.

The town retained its retirement character until 1985, when the potential for tourism was realised. Until the mid-1980s, the town had approximately 200 residents and currently the town hosts up to  30,000 residents during Easter weekend, according to some estimates (Marais, 2004). Several historical phases signify the development of Clarens, namely: the phase of Clarens as a retirement village, the phase of capital injection from outside, and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project phase. From 1912 to 1985, during the phase of “Clarens as a retirement village,” agriculture was the main economic activity. The town was generally regarded as a retirement village due to the small number of people residing there and, although Clarens still has an agricultural component, most of the farming activities are now conducted in the larger centre of Bethlehem. The first capital in Clarens attracts more and more tourists daily


The Lesotho Highlands Water Project heralded the next phase in the development of Clarens.

This project required the construction of a tunnel from the Katse Dam in Lesotho to the Ash River just outside of Clarens  (the same river is used for adventure activities such as white-water rafting). Although other neighbouring towns such as Ficksburg also benefited from the construction of this tunnel, Clarens benefited from the decision for it to serve as the headquarters for the teams involved in building the tunnel. This required the construction of housing units in 1990.

Innovative entrepreneurs embarked on promoting Clarens as an unique and favourable getaway destination

After the completion of the project, the international labourers left Clarens, plunging the town into a recession. This was largely because the economic infrastructure was built around the provision of goods and services to international labourers. However, this resulted in innovative entrepreneurs embarking on promoting Clarens as a unique and favourable getaway destination. The outcome of the marketing campaign was restaurants and bed-and-breakfast establishments springing up like mushrooms in Clarens. During this time, artists took advantage of the opportunity to establish themselves in Clarens because it provided a beautiful setting to work in and from. They opened galleries and studios, selling art at prices unheard of in the metropolitan mainstream. In effect, the Clarens setting provided a ready market for selling art and other craft products, and the existing restaurants expanded their menus and additional outdoor activities flourished.ection from outside the Free State province came between 1985 and 1989.