A NEW species of dinosaur, the Rain Lizard, discovered in the Free State by a Wits team has revealed an exciting new picture of dinosaur development in South Africa.
Wits PhD student Blair McPhee, described it as a new species after he and Dr Jonah Choiniere, from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University, worked with a team unravelling the mysteries of the ancient creature.
“We used to think that only two species of dinosaur were present in South Africa. Now we know that the picture was much more complicated, with lots of species present. But the Rain Lizard is still special because it was doing something that all these newly discovered species weren’t,” McPhee said.
The discovery of the new dinosaur, Pulanesaura eocollum, meaning “Rain lizard”, shows the first evidence of dinosaurs making the transition to walking on four legs and browsing on the ground.
Pulanesaura was an early member of the long-necked sauropod lineage of dinosaurs, famously represented by Brontosaurus and has been described as small at about eight metres in length and 5 tonnes in body mass.
“This dinosaur showcases the unexpected diversity of locomotion and feeding strategies present in South Africa 200 million years ago. This has serious implications for how dinosaurs were carving up their ecosystems,” said McPhee.
Why is it called the “Rain lizard”? For one thing, it was pouring while they were excavating the skeleton. “Pulane” was also the childhood nickname of Panie Bremer, daughter of the owner of the farm where the dinosaur’s remains were found. And what does Pulane mean? It is Sesotho for “comes with rain”.