A team of scientists from universities in South Africa, the U.K. and Brazil have discovered the first evidence of a large carnivorous dinosaur roaming the region that would become southern Africa 200-million years ago, according to a statement from the University of Cape Town (UCT).
The UCT-led team included scientists from England's University of Manchester and the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil. The large fossilised footprints were discovered in the Roma Valley near the National University of Lesotho in western Lesotho.
A new study published by the team reveals a 50cm wide, 57cm long, three-toed footprint of the large animal colloquially known as a megatheropod -- a major contrast from the usual small dinosaurs with a body length of between 3m and 5m.
"With an estimated body length of about 9m and hip height of 2.7m, this animal would have roamed a landscape otherwise dominated by much smaller carnivorous dinosaurs and a variety of herbivorous and omnivorous dinosaurs," read the statement.
Lara Sciscio, lead author on the publication, explained the meaning behind the name - Ambrokholohali - given to the megatheropod tracks of the new species.
"This name was... derived in honour of Emeritus Professor David Ambrose for his detailed recording of the trace fossil heritage within the Roma Valley, Lesotho. In trying to relocate one of Prof Ambrose's sites, we discovered the newly exposed megatheropod tracks reported in the article."
What makes the discovery scientifically impactful is the fact that during the Early Jurassic period, dinosaurs were relatively smaller, and only starting growing within the Late Jurassic and Early to Middle Cretaceous -- about 120-million years ago.
"These are the largest theropod trackways ever found in Africa for this time period. These large tracks are unique with only one other site, in the Holy Cross Mountains, Poland, bearing similar-aged tracks but of a marginally larger size," read the statement.