The Mnyamawamtuka is a newly discovered dinosaur that is known from the partial skeleton of a single holotype excavated from the Galula Formation of southwest Tanzania. Previously, most of the titanosaurs were identified from South America. The dinosaur was a titanosaur, a group of large sauropods that lived on earth during the Cretaceous period. The dinosaur fossil was found in 2004 near the Mtuka River Valley. The excavation process continued from 2005 to 2008 and later it became one of the best-preserved fossils of early titanosaurs in Africa.
The discovery from continental Africa offered a more complete picture of the evolution of dinosaurs in Africa. The new discovery also offered insights into the paleogeography of the Cretaceous dinosaurs. The animal was distantly related to other contemporary titanosaurs of the Cretaceous era except for some similarities with another species called Malawisaurus found in Africa. The new dinosaur skeleton is an important discovery, it forms crucial evidence in tracking the evolutionary history of African fauna. To know more about Mnyamawamtuka, keep on reading these fascinating facts.
The name Mnyamawamtuka is pronounced as Mm-nya-ma-wah-mm-too-ka. The name translates to the beast of the Mtuka River in Swahili.
The Mnyamawamtuka was one of the largest known titanosaurs that lived on earth during the Late Cretaceous period. These dinosaurs belonged to the diverse group Titanosauria of the sauropod clade. Comparing Mnyamawamtuka to the family tree of titanosaurs, the researchers inferred that the dinosaurs are closely related to the dinosaurs of the clade Lithostropia, which includes most of the late Cretaceous titanosaurs.
The Mnyamawamtuka was a titanosaur that evolved in the Middle Cretaceous Period. Most likely, the dinosaur lived between 110 - 100 million years ago between the Aptian age and Cenomanian age. The animal became extinct with other titanosaurs of Africa during the mass extinction of dinosaurs.
The Mnyamawamtuka lived up to 100 million years ago and became extinct in the Cenomanian age of the Late Cretaceous period.
Most of the titanosaurs are known from the continent of South America but the new species discovered from east Africa tells a lot about the dinosaurs of the African continent. The skeleton of the Mnyamawamtuka was discovered from a riverbed in the East African Rift system of Tanzania. It was a part of the Galula Formation in Tanzania. The researchers of Ohio University have inferred that these dinosaurs were essentially a part of Tanzania, Egypt, and some other parts of the African Continent.
There is no information regarding the habitat preference of Mnyamawamtuka however since all titanosaurs lived in a terrestrial habitat, it is believed that these dinosaurs followed the same trend.
There is enough evidence that some large titanosaurs lived in herds to ensure protection against dangerous predators but whether Mnyamawamtuka was one of them is unknown.
The Mnyamawamtuka lived for almost 10 million years in the middle of Cretaceous Africa. This old-world dinosaur roamed on the earth's surface between 110 and 100 million years ago. However, their lifespan remains unknown.
Just like other dinosaurs, a Mnyamawamtuka too reproduced by laying eggs. Additional data regarding the breeding process of the dinosaur is missing since the professors of earth sciences from Ohio university could not conclude the reproductive characteristics of the dinosaurs from the mere discovery of fossils.
Mnyamawamtuka gives a detailed description of the titanosaurs that lived in Africa around that period. The new dinosaur fossils included fragments from the neck, tail, limbs, and torso. The holotype that was excavated was small indicating that the dinosaur was not fully mature. The new dinosaur had some unusual physical traits. One of them was the presence of a heart-shaped bone in its tail and a short sternal plate. The dinosaur is presumed to have been extremely large when it became fully mature. The fossils do not suggest that they had neck frills.
The tail vertebrae of the dinosaur had a heart-shaped bone. The middle tail vertebra that was discovered had a vertebral body and the rear end was widened to sideways and above. This resulted in the heart-shaped structure of the bone in the tail. For this reason, few researchers jokingly said that Mnyamawamtuka wore its heart on the tail. The paired breast bone plates on both sides are exceptionally small in length. Even though they did not have any frills, the rear and the back vertebrae of Mnyamawamtuka have an accessory ridge.
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The total number of bones present in the body of a Mnyamawamtuka is not known. The dinosaur is known from partial fragments that were discovered from southwest Tanzania. The Mnyamawamtuka fossil lacked the skull, still, it is one of the most complete fossilized remains. The fossil of the new dinosaur excavated from the Galula Formation includes a neural arch of a front neck, seven back vertebrae, four centra of neck vertebrae, a right shoulder blade, seven centra and seven neural arches of the tail, numerous rib pieces, four chevrons, a right breastbone, right pubic bone, both shinbones, both humeri, right first metacarpal, left calfbone, left ischium, a left third metacarpal, two toe phalanges, and a foot claw.
Similar to all other dinosaurs, a Mnyamawamtuka probably communicated with vocalizations too. However, their communication behavior could not be concluded from the fossils.
The estimated length of the discovered Mnyamawamtuka holotype ranged up to 25 ft (7.6 m). They were two times bigger in size than another sauropod, the Gondwanatitans.
A Mnyamawamtuka was a large titanosaur. This means that the dinosaur moved at a slower speed. However, their actual speed is unknown.
The weight of Mnyamawamtuka ranges up to 2998 lb (1360 kg).
A male and a female Mnyamawamtuka do not have any particular name. Both are referred to as Mnyamawamtuka.
A baby Mnyamawamtuka is called a nestling or a hatchling.
The Mnyamawamtuka was herbivorous in nature, this makes them far less aggressive than the large-sized flesh-eaters that lived during the Cretaceous period. However, their large size might make them appear aggressive to many.
The type species of Mnyamawamtuka, Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia is the only discovered holotype of the dinosaur. The specific name of the large-sized animal means the heart of the tail referring to the heart-shaped bone in its tail.
Mnyamawamtuka was placed into the Titanosauria clade recently in 2019. Alternatively, the dinosaur was also placed in the basal position in the Lithostrotia clade and as a sister group of Malawisaurus.