Name: Sefapanosaurus zastronensis
Meaning: Sefapanosaurus means “cross lizard”, in reference to a T-shaped part of the dinosaur’s ankle, while zastronensis refers to the place in South Africa where its bones were found.
Age: Latest Triassic or earliest Jurassic, around 200 million years old
Where in the world?: Near Zastron, close to the Lesotho-South Africa border
What sort of critter?: Sefapanosaurus was a sauropodiform dinosaur, an archaic relative of the long-necked, large-bodied sauropods like Apatosaurus.
Size: Not yet published
How much of the creature’s body is known?: An incomplete left foot and four partial skeletons that include various pieces of the spine and limbs.
Claim to fame: Deserts and badlands aren’t the only places to find new dinosaurs. Some are hiding in museum collections.
Sometime during the 1930s someone discovered several partial dinosaur skeletons near South Africa’s border with Lesotho. These remains were cataloged as Euskelosaurus in the Wits University collections, and were recently referred to a different dinosaur called Aardonyx. But, according to a new study by Alejandro Otero and colleagues, those bones really represent a previously-unknown dinosaur – Sefapanosaurus zastronensis.
In the big picture of the dinosaur family tree, Sefapanosaurus is a sauropodiform. This puts it between the more archaic, bipedal sauropodomorphs and the huge, four-on-the-floor sauropods. It wasn’t necessarily an ancestor of later giants like Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus, but, along with relatives like Antetonitrus, the anatomy of the dinosaur’s limbs helps highlight some of the changes this herbivorous group underwent as they transitioned from bipeds to quadrupeds.
Otero, A., Krupandan, E., Pol, D., Chinsamy, A., Choiniere, J. 2015. A new basal sauropodiform from South Africa and the phylogenetic relationships and basal sauropodomorphs. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 174: 589-634. doi: 10.1111/zoj.12247