SALT LAKE CITY — Scientists recently discovered a new dinosaur species that would have been the largest land animal of its time.
The newly discovered dinosaur — called Ledumahadi mafube, which is Sesotho for “a giant thunderclap at dawn" — is a relative of the Brontosaurus that would have weighed about 26,000 pounds, which is about the size of two African elephants, according to the research published in the journal Current Biology.
The dinosaur was believed to be a herbivore that walked on four legs.
Researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand discovered the dinosaur in South Africa, where Sesotho is an official language of the indigenous population.
"The name reflects the great size of the animal as well as the fact that its lineage appeared at the origins of sauropod dinosaurs," said Jonah Choiniere, study author and paleontology professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. "It honors both the recent and ancient heritage of southern Africa."
Blair McPhee, a graduate student working with Choiniere, discovered the bones in 2012. Blair wasn’t sure which dinosaur the bones came from, according to CNN.
"Blair told me how important he thought it was, and even showed me that some of its bones were still sticking out of the rocks in the field," Choiniere said.
Scientists spent years uncovering the full dinosaur, which was likely only 14 years old when it died.
Researchers believed the dinosaur was a relative of sauropod dinosaurs, like the aforementioned Brontosaurus. However, the dinosaur probably developed independently of other sauropods.
And, according to CNET, the dinosaur probably walked the earth before sauropods.
"The first thing that struck me about this animal is the incredible robustness of the limb bones," said McPhee, lead study author, according to CNN. "It was of similar size to the gigantic sauropod dinosaurs, but whereas the arms and legs of those animals are typically quite slender, Ledumahadi's are incredibly thick."
The discovery also shows that dinosaurs developed differently than everyone thought.
"The evolution of sauropods isn't quite as straightforward as we once thought," Choiniere said. "It appears that sauropodomorphs evolved four-legged postures at least twice before they gained the ability to walk with upright limbs, which undoubtedly helped make them so successful in an evolutionary sense."