The recently discovered dinosaur species is scientifically classified as Aardonyx celestae.
It is believed by scientists to have roamed South Africa about 195 million years ago (the Jurassic period)—reaching a body length of seven meters (twenty feet).
Aardonyx celesta is defined from the Latin language as "Earth Claw.”
The November 11, 2009 National Geographic article “New Dinosaur Found; Shows How Giants Got That Way,” quotes the co-author of the research team that discovered this exciting new dino species.
The co-author of the study, U.S. vertebrate paleobiologist Matthew F. Bonnan (from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois), stated, "What's exciting about Aardonyx is it's showing us that transition period … it's the closest thing just before becoming the classic sauropod,"
The new species has a long neck, a large stomach for eating a lot of plants, and walked on two legs (but when standing would descend down to four legs). It also had many features like its cousin, the sauropod, such as a strong skeleton for supporting it large frame.
During the Jurassic period, from which the new A. celestae species roamed, the area consisted of a dry floodplain with isolated spots of water.
A YouTube video highlighting the discovery by the Bonnan team is found at Aardonyx "Earth Claw" Dinosaur Discovery.
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Dr. Bonnan commented within the National Geographic article that the skeleton discovered showed that the animal was only about ten years old when it died.
The research by Dr. Bonnan, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Western Illinois University, and his colleagues was funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration.
To learn more about this exciting discovery, please read the Western Illinois University article “Earth Claw - Discovery of Aardonyx.”
The article begins, “This dinosaur from the Early Jurassic (195 million years ago) of South Africa is shedding new light on the origins of the most enormous dinosaurs ever: the sauropods.”
The summary of the discovery of Bonnan’s team is published in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B.
It is entitled “A new transitional sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic of South Africa and the evolution of sauropod feeding and quadrupedalism.”
Dr. Bonnan was joined in the discovery and the publication of the paper by Adam M. Yates and Marc G. Blackbeard (both from the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa), Johann Neveling,(Council for Geoscience, Pretoria, South Africa), and Anusuya Chinsamy (Zoology Department, University of Cape Town, South Africa).