HARARE    -   Scientists have unearthed in Zimbabwe the re­mains of Africa’s oldest dinosaur, which lived more than 230 million years ago. The Mbiresau­rus raathi was one metre tall, ran on two legs and had a long neck and jagged teeth. Scientists said it was a species of sauropodomorph, a relative of the sauropod, which walked on four legs.

The skeleton was discovered during two expe­ditions, in 2017 and 2019, to the Zambezi Valley.

“When we talk of the evolution of early dino­saurs, fossils from the Triassic age are rare,” Dar­lington Munyikwa, deputy director of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, and who was part of the expeditions, told the BBC.

He said that fossils from that era - which ended more than 200 million years ago - had been un­earthed in South America, India and now Zimba­bwe. The find is expected to shed more light on evolution and migration of early dinosaurs, back when the world was one huge continent and Zim­babwe was at the same latitude as those coun­tries, he said. Zimbabwe has been aware of other fossils in the area for decades and Mr Munyikwa said there were more sites that needed further ex­ploration in the area, subject to funding availabili­ty. “It shows that dinosaurs didn’t start out world­wide, ruling the world from the very beginning,” Christopher Griffin, another scientist involved in the expedition, told the BBC. “They, and the animals they lived with, seem to have been con­strained to a particular environment in the far south - what is today South America, southern Africa and India.” He added that the find was the “oldest definitive dinosaur ever found in Africa”. Prof Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, a palae­ontologist at the University of Cape Town, told the BBC that the discovery was important be­cause it was part of the lineage that gave rise to the sauropod dinosaurs, which includes the di­plodocus and the brontosaurus. “It tells us that when dinosaurs were evolving, they were found on different continents, but they seem to have followed a hot humid environment rather than dry inhospitable one,” she told the BBC. “We hope there is more coming out of that area.” She added that the area where the discovery took place had seen recent gas mining exploration. “I hope that there is a strict policy in place to ensure that if they encounter fossils, they hand them over to the museums, so we don’t lose that material,” she said.