Episode 111 is all about Malawisaurus, a titanosaur that lived in Malawi in Africa, during the Early Cretaceous.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- The dinosaur of the day: Malawisaurus
- Name means “Malawi lizard”
- Sauropod, titanosaur, that lived in Malawi in Africa, during the Early Cretaceous
- Named for the country of Malawi, plus saurus (Greek for lizard)
- Louis L. Jacobs, D. A. Winkler, W.R. Downs, and E.M. Gomani named Malawisaurus in 1993
- Sidney H. Haughton described Malawisaurus in 1928 but classified it as a species of Gigantosaurus (now an invalid name for a diplodocid, known as Tornieria)
- Another synonym is Janenschia (used to be a Gigantosaurus species, Gigantosaurus robustus, that became Tornieria robustus, but was found in 1991 to be distinct from Tornieria, and became known as Janenschia robustus)
- Not the same as Janenschia because Malawi fossils come from older rocks than Janenschia
- Type species is Malawisaurus dixeyi
- In 2005, Elizabeth Gomani wrote Sauropod Dinosaurs from the Early Cretaceous of Malawi, Africa, and wrote about Malawisaurus
- Malawisaurus is one of the few titanosaurs where skull material has been found
- Found cranial elements, cervical vertebrae, dorsal vertebrae, a sacrum, caudal vertebrae, chevrons, and dermal armor
- Had a short, high skull
- Small for a sauropod, about 52 ft (16 m) long
- Possibly had osteoderms on its skin, may have formed basic armor to protect it
- Titanosaurs are a group of sauropods, very large herbivores, that lived during the last 30 million years of the Mesozoic Era. Some titanosaur species are the largest land-living animals discovered, but in many cases, scientists have found incomplete fossils
- The name Titanosaur came from the Titans of Ancient Greek mythology
- The family, Titanosauridae, was named after Titanosaurus, an incomplete fossil (only a partial femur and two incomplete caudal vertebrae) found by Richard Lydekker in 1877. Some scientists think there is not enough information for Titanosauridae to be a genus
- Titanosaurs were the last group of sauropods. They lived about 90 to 66 million years ago and were the dominant herbivores. They replaced other sauropods, like diplodocids and brachiosaurids
- Titanosaur fossils have been found on all continents, including Antarctica. The most titanosaurs lived in the southern continents, which was then part of the supercontinent Gondwana.
- Compared to other sauropods, Titanosaurs had small heads. Their heads were also wide, with large nostrils, and crests formed by nasal bones
- Fun fact: Ontogeny relates to developmental changes in an animal, whereas phylogeny relates to evolutionary changes. There is a theory called the “recapitulation theory,” which for 100s of years has been used to equate embryonic development to a sort of mini-evolution, i.e., a human fetus looks not only looks like a fish because we evolved from fish, but literally passes through a fish stage. It’s not true, but it is a good way to remember what ontogeny and phylogeny mean.
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