Tendaguru, in the southern province of Tanzania, is one of Earth’s palaeontological hot spots, and has close similarities to the Morrison Formation in the US and the Lourinhã Formation of Portugal.
The bones are of Late Jurassic age, preserved at a time when Tanzania was in the southern hemisphere. There are uncanny parallels between the Tendaguru fossils of East Africa and the Morrison Formation of the American West. For instance, Brachiosaurus and Stegosaurus were dug out of the Morrison, with similar counterparts of Giraffatitan and Kentrosaurus from the Tendaguru. Giraffatitan was originally classified as a species of Brachiosaur – which was first found in Jurassic beds in North America. In addition theropod remains from Tendaguru have been classified as Allosaurus. And another dinosaur which is very similar to its North American counterpart Stegosaurus is Kentrosaurus.
Although initially thought to be the equivalent of North American examples, it is now believed that they belong to different general. However their similarities leads us to ask the question of why such similar animals came about on two different continents.
The beds were discovered in 1906 by a German mining engineer Bernhard Wilhelm Sattler, on his way south to a mine near the Mbemkure River noticed enormous bones sticking of the path near the base of Tendaguru – which means steep hill in the local language. Sattler wrote to his superiors of the find and a German palaeontologist, Eberhard Fraas, who was in Africa at the time, paid the site a visit. Between the two of them they managed to recover two incomplete skeletons of enormous size. These skeletons were shipped to the Royal Natural History Collection in Stuttgart, Germany. Fraas named them Gigantosaurus robustus and Gigantosaurus africanus. These names have been revised to Janenschia robusta and Barosaurus africanus.