New Sauropod Dinosaur Species Named Rain Lizard

Posted on August 24, 2015

Pulanesaura eocollum

Scientists have identified a new species of long-necked sauropod dinosaur. The new dinosaur has been named Pulanesaura eocollum, which means the rain lizard.

The fossils were discovered at Heelbo, an eastern Free State farm in South Africa. Pulanesaura was a big dinosaur but scientists say it was relatively small for a sauropod. It was about eight meters (26.2 feet) long and weighed 5 tons. The researchers believe the dinosaur kept on all fours and ate lower vegetation. They say it would not have had the flexibility to use its forelimb as an additional means of gathering food like its ancestors. It would have had to rely solely on the flexibility of its long neck. It lived during the Early Jurassic between 200 and 180 million years ago.

Wits PhD student Blair McPhee, the lead author of the paper, says in a statement, "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."

Study co-author Dr. Jonah Choiniere, also from Wits, says, "We used to think that only two species of sauropodomorph dinosaur were present in South Africa. Now we know that the picture was much more complicated, with lots of species present. But Pulanesaura is still special because it was doing something that all these newly discovered species weren't."

The dinosaur was given the name rain lizard because it was excavated during a particularly rainy period. The word "Pulane" translates as "comes with rain." The research paper on the new sauropod can be found here in the journal, Scientific Reports.

Image: University of the Witwatersrand