South African PhD student describes new dinosaur

20 August 2015

A student at the University of the Witwatersrand has described a new species of South African dinosaur, Pulanesaurus eocollum, or rain lizard, in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports yesterday.

Blair McPhee, the PhD student, said the dinosaur was relatively small – for a sauropod – at about eight metres in length‚ two metres wide at the hips‚ and 5 tons in body mass. The rain lizard lived in the Early Jurassic period, between 200- and 180 million years ago, from which there were only a handful of good sauropod specimens.

“This dinosaur showcases the unexpected diversity of locomotion and feeding strategies present in South Africa 200 million years ago. This has serious implications for how dinosaurs were carving up their ecosystems,” said McPhee.

The fossils of Pulanesaura were found at Heelbo‚ a farm in the eastern Free State; two other recently described South African dinosaur species also come from the region – Aardonyx and Arcusaurus. Both are primitive members of the same lineage.

The late Naude Bremer‚ former owner of Heelbo‚ was a strong supporter of palaeontology on his farm. “Pulane” was the childhood Sesotho nickname of Bremer’s daughter‚ Panie. Roughly translated‚ “Pulane” means “comes with rain” and Pulanesaura was excavated on the property during a particularly rainy period.

These species‚ along with limb bones of a small predatory dinosaur‚ the teeth of a huge predatory dinosaur and other bones of as-yet-unknown dinosaurs make Heelbo one of the richest dinosaur localities in southern Africa.

According to the authors of the paper – McPhee‚ Dr Matthew Bonnan (Stockton University)‚ Dr Jonah Choiniere (Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits)‚ Dr Adam Yates (scientist at the Museum of Central Australia) and Dr Johann Neveling (geologist from the Council of Geoscience, South Africa)‚ Pulanesaura was an early member of the long-necked sauropod lineage of dinosaurs‚ famously represented by Brontosaurus.

Source: RDM News Wire