A new dinosaur species wearing its heart on its tail provides new clues to how ecosystems evolved in Africa. USA TODAY
There have been dinosaurs with feathers, "baby dragon" ones and even dinos that looked like ducks. Now, just in time for Valentine's Day, scientists say they've discovered a dinosaur that had a heart-shaped tail.
Not just a novelty act, this new dinosaur — which scientist say wears its “heart” on its tail — provides new clues as to how ecosystems evolved in Africa, a new study suggests.
The new dinosaur is "a unique species and provides new insights into sauropod evolution," the study said.
Sauropods were the largest land animals in Earth's history. Other well-know sauropods include Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus.
This dinosaur was given the scientific name of Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, which derives from the Swahili words meaning "beast of the Mtuka" and "heart of the tail," referring respectively to the location it was found and to the heart-shaped part of its tail vertebrae.
The find shows a more complex picture of dinosaur evolution on Earth. O'Connor said that “each new discovery adds a bit more detail to the picture of what ecosystems on continental Africa were like during the Cretaceous." The Cretaceous spans from 145 million years ago to 66 million years ago.
Fossils of the creature's skeleton were discovered in southwestern Tanzania, high in a cliff wall overlooking the seasonally dry Mtuka riverbed.
The new dinosaur is yet another member of the large, long-necked titanosaur sauropods.
Titanosaurs were the most widespread group of sauropods, which reached their peak in the Late Cretaceous after all other sauropod groups vanished. However, scientists say their early evolution is poorly understood due to a lack of fossils in places other than South America.
"Although titanosaurs became one of the most successful dinosaur groups before the infamous mass extinction capping the Age of Dinosaurs, their early evolutionary history remains obscure, and Mnyamawamtuka helps tell those beginnings, especially for their African side of the story," Gorscak said.
Judy Skog of the National Science Foundation said "this new dinosaur gives us important information about African fauna during a time of evolutionary change. It’s also timely information about an animal with heart-shaped tail bones during this week of Valentine’s Day.”
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