A dinosaur fossil discovery is exciting paleontologists. An international scientific team, working in Angola, recently discovered the fossilized front limb of a formerly unknown dinosaur. The team found the fossil, with fish and shark teeth, in a 90 million year old seabed. The team believes that the creature fell into the sea, where ancient sharks tore it apart. It is a unique type of saurapod, and it is amongst the largest animals ever to have lived on Earth. Scientists think the animal had a humped back. They christened this animal, Angolatian adamastor, or Angolan giant.
Civil war and instability closed Angola for fifty years, so paleontologists are only just beginning to study there. However, the discovery is greatly significant to understanding of paleontology and continental drift theory, the Angolan discovery, supports evidence from other parts of Africa, adding to mounting realization that previous estimates on the timing and way that the Pangaea single land mass split may be wrong.
Pangaea split into two large continents, called Laurasia and Gondwanaland, and then, over time, these two large continents split into the modern continental formation. The discovery of unique dinosaurs in Africa could mean that dinosaurs evolved differently to those in other parts of the world and, thus, that Africa was isolated from other parts of the world, during dinosaur evolution. It will help scientists to estimate more accurately, when Africa divided from the other continents.
The dinosaur fossil record for Africa was previously patchy but, since 1994, scientists have found unique dinosaurs in Africa. When they began studying dinosaur fossils in Africa, they expected to find similar species to those found in South America, and they did, but they also found many unique species. The current theory on continental drift is that a land mass, the two modern countries of South America and Africa, broke away from Gondwanaland in one chunk. Many scientists now believe that finding unique dinosaur fossils in Africa, supports a theory that Africa broke away from Gondwanaland before the other southern continents and that it was an Island continent around 70 million years ago.
The Sahara desert has proved a fruitful hunting ground for paleontologists. The skull of a wrinkle faced carnivorous dinosaur, Rugops primus, related to, but not the same as, dinosaurs living in South America and India, indicates that scientists will have to revise the theory of continental drift. In Tanzania, scientists found a fossilized crocodile, which, strangely, had mammalian teeth and a unique giant herbivorous dinosaur. The Karoo basin, in South Africa, is particularly rich in dinosaur fossils and scientists found primitive dinosaurs with bird shaped hips there. West Africa’s climactic and other conditions did not preserve dinosaur fossils very well.
Though paleontologists continue finding unique dinosaur fossils in many places in Africa, the reason the Angola discovery is so important is that the fossils are extraordinarily well preserved. As Angola moved rapidly away from the super continent, this caused its climate to change from desert to tropical forest, so preserving the dinosaur fossils. The team is still investigating in Angola, they keep finding new dinosaurs, and the fossil record will help them to understand accurately when Africa separated from Gondwanaland, if Africa was an island continent, and tell much about the Atlantic Ocean and its formation.
The rocks in Angola may tell geologists and Earth Scientists how asteroids and volcanic eruptions affected Earth’s story. The Angolan fossil discoveries may also help Angola to emerge from its troubled past by providing income from tourism. This dinosaur fossil discovery will further understanding of Earth’s wonderful story.