New giant predatory dinosaur species found in southern Africa

WASHINGTON (AFP) - An international team of scientists have found the footprints of a giant carnivorous dinosaur that roamed southern Africa 200 million years ago, the first proof that T. Rex-like predators existed during the Early Jurassic period.

The newly discovered dinosaur, named "Kayentapus ambrokholohali," had three-toed footprints measuring 57cm by 50cm, giving the creature an estimated body length of around 9m - four times the size of a lion, and slightly smaller than the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex which grew up to 12m long.

It is also the largest megatheropod - or giant two-legged carnivorous dinosaur - discovered on the African continent.

Researchers from the The University of Manchester, University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil published their findings on Wednesday (Oct 25) in science journal PLOS ONE.

They discovered the tracks on an ancient land surface, or paleosurface, in the Maseru District of Lesotho - at the time part of a prehistoric continent known as Gondwana which would later break up to become Africa and other landmasses.

It was covered in current-ripple marks and desiccation cracks, indicative of a prehistoric watering hole or river bank.

Smaller theropod tracks also dotted the area.

Dr Fabien Knoll, Senior Research Fellow at The University of Manchester, said: "It is the first evidence of an extremely large meat-eating animal roaming a landscape otherwise dominated by a variety of herbivorous, omnivorous and much smaller carnivorous dinosaurs. It really would have been top of the food chain." Moreover, it was previously believed that theropods of the Early Jurassic were much smaller - in the range of 3m to 5m long.