Lesotho is fast becoming a palaeontologists haven with already 6 major Dinosaur finds between the years 1970 and 2016.
Just recently, massive footprints of a mega-carnivore that was said to be roaming around Southern Africa 200-million years ago were found on an informal road near Maseru in western Lesotho, and the resulting study published this week in the online science journal PLOS One (Timeslive;2017).
The team, which includes researchers from The University of Manchester, University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, have found several three-toed footprints measuring 57cm long and 50cm wide (Manchester1824;2017). The footprints have revealed to the scientists a creature estimated to be 9m in body length (similar to the height of a two-storey building)‚ with a hip height of 2.7 metres (Timeslive;2017)
It has been classified as a megatheropod (mega meaning huge‚ and theropod referring to carnivorous dinosaurs‚ who had short forelimbs and walked and ran on their hind legs)‚ and has been named Kayentapus ambrokholohali (Timeslive; 2017). The tracks were found on an ancient land surface, known as a palaeosurface, in the Maseru District of Lesotho. The surface is covered in 200 million years old ‘current-ripple marks’ and ‘desiccation cracks’ which are signs of a prehistoric watering hole or river bank (Manchester1824;2017).
UCT postdoctoral fellow Lara Sciscio‚ author on the publication and part of the discovery team‚ explained how the finding fits into the broader discipline of untangling the dinosaur family tree: “The body fossil evidence for theropod dinosaurs in southern Africa is slim. Luckily the footprints they left behind are not. By studying these and other tracks as well as the bone fossil record‚ scientists are able to tentatively link footprints to potential trackmakers”. She said that‚ to date‚ “we have nobody’s fossil material to match the K. ambrokholohali’s footprints”‚ but that hopefully, we will soon “discover more unusual footprints and‚ from there‚ body fossils that will help add to our understanding of the complex ancient world (TimesLive;2017).