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Scientists Find Evidence of 2 New Dinosaurs

October 14, 1994|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Bones from two previously unknown species of dinosaurs--a fleet-footed hunter and a long-necked grazer--have been found in Africa. They lived 130 million years ago in a lush, tropical paradise that is now the Sahara.

The new hunter dinosaur, about 27 feet long, was named Afrovenator abakensis, or "African hunter from In Abaka," referring to the area of Niger where the bones were found.

The second discovery was a 60-foot-long plant-eater that is still unnamed. It was a sauropod--akin to the brontosaurus--with a long neck and tail and a massive body. It was so big that its thigh bone was six feet long.

Paul C. Sereno, leader of a University of Chicago team, said the dinosaur species were the first found in Africa that date from the Cretaceous, the second half of the age of dinosaurs. The newly found species are similar to animals that lived during an earlier time in North America and Asia, he said.

"All of these types of dinosaurs went extinct in the north, but they survived in Africa" much longer, Sereno said.

A report by Sereno and his colleagues on studies of the newly discovered dinosaurs is to be published today in the journal Science.

Sereno said afrovenator was smaller than tyrannosaurus Rex, the killer king that lived during a later era in the American West, but was bigger than the velociraptor.

The much smaller afrovenator was apparently such a fearsome hunter that it preyed on the far bigger sauropod.

"At every place we found the sauropod we did find traces, such as teeth, of the theropod," said Sereno. "It is very likely that they were prey and predator."

But it apparently was not an easy task for the afrovenator. The size difference would be comparable to a collie attacking an elephant.

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