A PhD student of the University of the Witwatersrand has discovered a new dinosaur species in the University’s vaults, after it has been laying misidentified in a collection for 30 years.

A team of scientists, led by PhD Student Kimberley Chapelle, recognised that the dinosaur was not only a new species but an entirely new genus.

They believe it’s an odd example of Massospondylus, which was one of the first dinosaurs to reign at the start of the Jurassic period.

The dinosaur is believed to have had a fairly chunky body, a long slender neck and a small, boxy head.

It would have measured three metres and was likely an omnivore, feeding on both plants and small animals.

Chapelle explains why she named the specimen Ngwevu intloko.

“We named it Ngwevu intloko, which means ‘grey skull’. I named it in Xhosa because I wanted it to be more accessible to the rest of SA. For a long time, a lot of the dino species was named in Latin or Greek or English. It is frightening in SA how few many know that while we had dinosaurs that this is their heritage,” explains Chapelle.

Professor Paul Barrett, Chapelle’s PhS supervisor and researcher at the Natural History Museum in the UK explains, “This is a new dinosaur that has been hiding in plain sight”.

“The specimen has been in the collections in Johannesburg for about 30 years, and lots of other scientists have already looked at it. But they all thought that it was simply an odd example of Massospondylus.”

Massospondylus was one of the first dinosaurs to reign at the start of the Jurassic period. Regularly found throughout southern Africa, these animals belonged to a group called the sauropodomorphs and eventually gave rise to the sauropods, a group containing the Natural History Museum’s iconic dinosaur cast Dippy. Researchers are now starting to look closer at  many of the supposed Massospondylus specimens, believing there to be much more variation than first thought.