Scientists discovered a new dinosaur species in South Africa that is twice the height of an African elephant. Ledumahadi mafube means ‘giant thunderclap at dawn’ in Sesotho was a herbivore roaming in the Jurassic period.

However, this herbivore was not like your classic brontosaurus, a planet-eater that walked on four legs; a sauropod. These enormous creatures needed four feet to support their weight.

The L. mafube is a sauropodomorph – a bipedal precursor to quadripedal sauropods.  Normally, these sauropodomorphs would have walked on two legs, but the team that discovered L. mafube argue it walked on four, meaning that a sauropodomorph may have walked on four legs 10 million years earlier than originally thought.

Ledumahadi mafube, a new species of dinosaur recently discovered. South African dinosaur in the foreground, Heterodontosaurus tucki.
Illustration Viktor Radermacher.

The researchers devised a new method for understanding how a dinosaur might have walked. This method took measurements from a dinosaur’s thigh and arm bones along with the same measurements from hundreds of animals alive today.  Their new model predicts that L. mafube walks on four legs.

“For me, every new discovery we make is a new, exciting puzzle piece that helps us tell the story of this 200-million-year-old complex ecosystem with more clarity.”

Emese Bordy.