|Restoration of Ledumahadi mafube|
Apaldetti et al., 2018
McPhee et al., 2018
McPhee et al., 2018
Ledumahadi (meaning "a giant thunderclap" in Sesotho language) is a genus of lessemsaurid sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic Elliot Formation in Free State Province, South Africa. The type and only species is L. mafube, known from a singular incomplete postcranial specimen. A quadruped, it was one of the first giant sauropodomorphs, reaching a weight of around 12 tonnes (26,000 lb), despite not having evolved columnar limbs like its later huge relatives.
Ledumahadi was likely a quadruped, as determined by analysis of the circumference of its humerus and femur compared to those of other dinosaurs. It would have had very large, robust forelimbs, consistent with those of its relatives. Unlike those of later sauropods, these limbs were naturally flexed, as opposed to being purely columnar.
At its time in the Early Jurassic epoch, Ledumahadi is thought to have been the largest land animal that had ever lived. It is estimated to have reached a maximum size of around 12 tonnes (26,000 lb) in weight; well over twice any confident weight estimates for a Triassic sauropod (around 3 tonnes, in Camelotia), and still significantly larger than the highest estimates for Lessemsaurus, around 7 tonnes; even early true sauropods, such as Vulcanodon, are not known to have been this large; L. mafube was more comparable to the later sauropod Diplodocus in weight.
A phylogenetic analysis of Ledumahadi mafube was performed by McPhee and colleagues, which found it to belong to a recently recognised clade of sauropodiformes called Lessemsauridae, including the closely related South African Antetonitrus and Lessemsaurus from Argentina. Another lessemsaurid described in 2018, Ingentia, could not be included in their analysis but was also recognised as belonging to Lessemsauridae. The results of McPhee and colleagues' analysis are shown in the cladogram below:
The size of the taxon was deemed to be important in the wider picture of sauropod evolution, similar to its other lessemsaurid relatives. Living only a few million years after the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event, it indicates that this event must have either had only a small effect on body size within the sauropod lineage, or may have not affected it at all. Significance was also found in the magnitude of the size itself—it lacked the columnar limbs that characterized its more derived relatives, thought to be a key adaptation in body size evolution. Ornithischian dinosaurs reach their largest sizes around a similar size of 12 to 17 tonnes in weight. This may have been the upper limit for dinosaurs without adopting the characteristics found in true sauropods, which grew to be several times the weight of Ledumahadi.
- McPhee, Blair W.; Benson, Roger B.J.; Botha-Brink, Jennifer; Bordy, Emese M. & Choiniere, Jonah N. (2018). "A giant dinosaur from the earliest Jurassic of South Africa and the transition to quadrupedality in early sauropodomorphs". Current Biology. 28 (19): 3143–3151.e7. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.063. PMID 30270189.
- "†Ledumahadi McPhee et al. 2018". Paleobiology Database. Fossilworks. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
- Apaldetti, Cecilia; Martínez, Ricardo N.; Cerda, Ignatio A.; Pol, Diego & Alcober, Oscar (2018). "An early trend towards gigantism in Triassic sauropodomorph dinosaurs". Nature Ecology & Evolution. 2 (8): 1227–1232. doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0599-y. PMID 29988169.