Known from only a single tooth discovered in what was then known as the German colony of East Africa back in the 1920’s, for many years Ostafrikasaurus was sitting hidden in plain sight, mislabelled as Labrosaurus and Ceratosaurus at various stages.
That all changed when in 2012, researchers took a closer look and realised that the 2-inch fang actually resembled that of a spinosaurid — one of the giant sail-backed predators that roamed the riverbanks and lakes of the Cretaceous period.
Ostafrikasaurus has been estimated to have grown 8–10 metres long, and like other spinosaurids, probably lived a semi-aquatic lifestyle, lurking around watersides eating fish and snapping up unwary prey species that had only showed up for a nice, quiet drink.
What makes Ostafrikasaurus particularly interesting is the fact that it probably represents the earliest known spinosaurid, being dated back to the late Jurassic period, 148MYA. Known from only a single tooth and potentially several others which may or may not be from the same genus, it represents a tantalising clue about the evolutionary history of this fascinating group of predators, which ultimately became amongst the largest sized of all time.
COOL FACT: The Tendaguru formation in Tanzania, where Ostafrikasaurus was discovered, is one of the best places for discovering late Jurassic fossils. Other species also found there include famous finds such as Allosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Pterodactylus.
FURTHER READING: If you appreciate nice, high resolution pictures of teeth, then why not take a look at the tooth from which Ostafrikasaurus was identified? Just follow this link and read down a couple of pages.