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Long Island professor discovers new dinosaur in Zimbabwe: ‘Big career moment’

Call it a dinomite discovery.

A Long Island professor is among researchers who discovered a new dinosaur species in Zimbabwe — the fourth ever uncovered in the African nation.

Stony Brook University professor Kimi Chapelle played a pivotal role in finding fossils of this lengthy-necked herbivore, called a sauropodomorph dino, which inhabited the area 210 million years ago in the Late Triassic period.

The prehistoric creature was named the Musankwa sanyatiensis in honor of the houseboat researchers who lived and worked on, as they island-hopped throughout the Mid-Zambezi Basin. It’s the first dinosaur to be named from the region in more than 50 years, Stony Brook noted.

Stony Brook University professor Kimi Chapelle played a pivotal role in finding the fossil. Courtesy of Kimi Chapelle
They discovered a new dinosaur species in Zimbabwe — the fourth ever uncovered in the African nation. Paul Barrett
The lengthy-necked herbivore is called a sauropodomorph dino and inhabited the area 210 million years ago in the Late Triassic period. Atashni Moopen

The findings were published this week in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. The expedition took place during 2017 and 2018, but lab follow-through research was only recently completed on the single hind leg, which included the dino’s thigh, shin and ankle bones.

“We could only work from but during very daytime hours because, if you go walk around at dusk and dawn, that’s when the crocodiles and the hippos come out of the water,” Chapelle, a lover of fieldwork, told The Post.

“Even during the day, you weren’t allowed to walk by the water because crocs tend to grab people from the shores,” she added, calling it “kind of weird.”

Researchers found a single hind leg, which included the dino’s thigh, shin and ankle bones. X / @NHMdinolab
It’s the first dinosaur to be named from the region in more than 50 years, Stony Brook noted. Barrett et al. 2024 / Atashni Moopen
Chapelle, 33, said that it was common for hippopotamuses to pop up while they were examining the fossils.

Chapelle, 33, said that it was common for hippopotamuses to pop up while they were examining fossils, too. And while seemingly cute, Chapelle said they are quite “extremely aggressive.”

Nevertheless, Chapelle helped unravel important details of the beast for the study led by Professor Paul Barrett from the Natural History Museum of London. They weighed about 850 pounds as one of the larger dinosaurs of its time, dwelled in swampy areas and most resemble sauropodomorphs found in South Africa, Chapelle’s native nation, and Argentina.

The excited expert also noted that Zimbabwe has been under-scrutinized in the search for dinosaur fossils, which began exactly 200 years ago.

She is hopeful this is going to change things.

“We have more fossils from the area that we’re still prepping and working on,” she said. “I think this has given us more of a boost to try and get that done soon.”
“Naming a new dinosaur species is always a big career moment, and it’s something that will stay in the literature forever, no matter what happens,” Kimi Chapelle said. Courtesy of Kimi Chapelle

“We have more fossils from the area that we’re still prepping and working on. I think this has given us more of a boost to try and get that done soon.”

For right now, though, she’s enjoying the moment millions of years in the making.

“Naming a new dinosaur species is always a big career moment, and it’s something that will stay in the literature forever, no matter what happens.”

Written by New York Post