Episode 29 – First of the Four-Footed Giant Dinosaurs!
Ledumahadi and the first dinosaur giants
The sauropod dinosaurs—the classic long-necks—included the largest land animal species that have ever lived. Throughout the Jurassic and Cretaceous, multiple families of sauropods achieved body masses over 50 tons: greater than any modern elephant and even exceeding the colossal indricothere rhinoceroses. Despite their incredible sizes, the sauropod dinosaurs have a murky early history…
This Past Time episode features a brand new species of sauropod cousin from the Early Jurassic of South Africa: Ledumahadi mafube. Described in a new paper in the journal Current Biology, Ledumahadi is part of a group of dinosaurs traditionally called “prosauropods.” Unlike the straight, column-like legs of true sauropods, Ledumahadi has strong but flexed arms and legs that lacked weight-bearing adaptations of its later cousin. Despite these anatomical differences, this new colossus achieved a mass over 12 tons, upending our classic understanding of the evolution of gigantic size!
The original paper on Ledumahaadi mafube was published in the journal Current Biology and is available at this link. The University of the Witwatersrand put out a great press release and Youtube video about this awesome find, so check those out too!
For more great research on the early days of the giants, check out lead author Dr. Blair McPhee’s research profile. To check out some great sauropod cousin specimens, check out the specimens on display at the Evolutionary Studies Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa.
For more general information on sauropod cousins and the true sauropods, I recommend Dr. Tom Holtz’s overview of the group on his University of Maryland website. You can also check out a classic Past Time episode on growth in the super-giant sauropods featuring friend of the show Dr. Mike D’Emic.
The awesome art used for our promo image is work by Viktor Radermache, an up-and-coming paleoartist who has also worked on other finds out of the Evolutionary Studies Institute. Check out this cool interview with him for some more science and artwork. I added myself to the artwork in the front under Creative Commons 4.0.
Sound effects from this episode are used under Creative Commons 3.0 licenses and were produced by AlexTriceratops123 (‘Elephant Growls’), Souchav (‘kid-playing-in-a-swimming-pool’), sonicport (‘stream6’), and maj061785 (‘stomp.’). These are available through freesound.org.