Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Researchers have found evidence of a new "megatheropod" dinosaur species from southern Africa. The giant carnivore roamed the continent some 200 million years ago.
The dinosaur's presence was revealed by a set of three-toed footprints. The dimensions of the prints suggest the species, named Kayentapus ambrokholohali, measured 30 feet from head to tail and rose 10 feet at the hip.
"The latest discovery is very exciting and sheds new light on the kind of carnivore that roamed what is now southern Africa," Fabien Knoll, senior research fellow at the University of Manchester, said in a news release. "That's because 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."
Ripples in the ancient rock where the prints were found suggest the site was once home to a watering hole or river bank. Should the massive carnivore have showed up for a drink, he might have scared away most of the residents.
Other members of the "megatheropod" dinosaur group, like Tyrannosaurus rex, didn't appear on the scene for another 60 million years. The diversity of large theropods didn't expand until the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous.
"This discovery marks the first occurrence of very large carnivorous dinosaurs in the early Jurassic of southern Gondwana -- the prehistoric continent which would later break up and become Africa and other landmasses," said Lara Sciscio, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cape Town. "This makes it a significant find. Globally, these large tracks are very rare."
Researchers described the novel theropod tracks this week in a new paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.