Image: The University of Manchester

Three-toed footprints of a carnivorous dinosaur new to science were found in a small country surrounded by South Africa — the largest to have ever lived there.

“Megatheropods” are giant, two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs which include the well-known Tyrannosaurus rex. The tracks from this particular megatheropod indicate the largest dinosaur ever discovered in Southern Africa and dates back to the Early Jurassic, when it was surmised that most dinosaurs were considerably smaller in size. The tracks themselves were nearly two feet in length.

This new species has been named Kayentapus ambrokholohali and was estimated to have measured about 30 feet in length. This discovery sheds an incredible amount of light on the kind of dinosaurs that roamed the area at this time. Scientists found the tracks on a paleosurface in the Maseru District of Lesotho.

The discovery team was comprised of researchers out of The University of Manchester, University of Cape Town, and Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.

One of the team members Dr. Fabien Knoll, out of The University of Manchester, stated, “…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.”

The tracks date back to the Early Jurassic which is even more surprising because there is little evidence of megatheropods persisting until the Late Jurassic and Cretaceous eras.

Dr. Knoll from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences added, “In South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Namibia, there is good record of theropod footprints from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic epochs. In fact, there are numerous palaeosurfaces where footprints and even tail and body impressions of these, and other animals, can be found. But now we have evidence this region of Africa was also home to a mega-carnivore.”

The complete findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.