The Life and Times of Dinosaurs: Presented by Prof. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, Paleobiologist: Dept. of Natural Science, UCT: 12 December 2015

Lewis Silberbauer

Anusuya, Zoololgist/Paleobiologist, internationally recognised scientist, was warmly welcomed and introduced by Chairperson Merrilee Berrisford.

Anusuya said she was very concerned that so few children knew anything about dinosaurs and this had inspired her to write two illustrated books for children – Famous Dinosaurs of Africa and Fossils for Africa. Many of the fascinating slides and fossils shown, as well as the interesting descriptions of site diggings etc. presented during Anusuya’s excellent talk, are reproduced in these two books.

Her occupation may sound romantic and exciting, but Anusuya had to spend many painstaking hours in sometimes appalling heat or cold, sifting through soil deposits and chipping away at rocks at many recognised sites, and was rarely rewarded with the finding of complete skeletons. Anusuya dramatically illustrated the size and shape of these amazing dinosaurs to an entranced audience by passing around bones, teeth, and claws that were millions of years old.

In the reddish-orange coloured Kirkwood Cliffs of the Sundays River Valley, were found the remains of a small predatory dinosaur in 1996 named Nqwebasaurus twazi (Nqweba being the area in which it was found, and twasi meaning ‘fast runner’). Anususuya and her colleagues were instrumental in naming it and confirming that it was only about 90 mm long and the earliest Ornithomimid (bird mimic) found originating from Gondwona. While in that area, Anusuya was horrified to see fossils exposed and lying near where construction workers had been busy excavating. She could only reconstruct the vertebra. The tibia was 3 cm long but the important parts like teeth and jaws were missing. It could possibly have been a Sauropod. She could only deduce that either someone had removed them for ornaments or that they were buried out of sight. From the size of the objects, they must have been from a mid-adult dinosaur.

Peter Berrisford thanked the speaker for her marvellous presentation saying he loved the animated way in which she presented her subject with much waving of arms, and smiles and frowns emphasising joy or sadness at appropriate moments. He said he was looking forward to seeing her perform again at the UCT Summer School.