A gigantic new dinosaur with a heart-shaped bone in its tail has been unveiled by scientists in time for Valentine’s Day.

The plant-eater was bigger than a three-storey house and lived in Africa 
100 million years ago.

It was a member of the titanosaurs – the largest animals that ever walked the Earth.

The beast could have weighed up to 20 tons and been 30ft, towering over the tropical forest trees it fed on.

But the dinosaur’s most striking feature was the unique shape of the tail bones – that resembled the outline of a heart.

The US team joked: “It wore its heart on its tail.”

The discovery of its remarkably preserved remains also provides clues to how 
ecosystems evolved on the African Continent during the Cretaceous period.

Named Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, a name derived from Swahili “animal of the Mtuka (with) a heart-shaped tail” its fossilised bones and teeth were unearthed in the East African Rift System of Tanzania.

Lead author Dr Eric Gorscak, of Midwestern University in Downers Grove, near Chicago, said: “Although titanosaurs became one of the most successful dinosaur groups before the mass extinction capping the Age of Dinosaurs, their early evolutionary history remains obscure.

“Mnyamawamtuka helps tell those beginnings, especially for their African-side of the story.”

Its name also refers to Mtuka after the riverbed where it was found and its unique tail bones.

Judy Skog, programme director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research, said: “It’s also  timely information about an animal with heart-shaped tail bones during this week of Valentine’s Day.”

The dinosaur described in Plos One is the third new titanosaur dug up in the area by the same team. It is one of the most complete of its kind. 

Part of the skeleton was first discovered high in a cliff wall overlooking the seasonally dry riverbed in 2004. Annual excavations continued for the next five years.

Dr Gorscak said: “The wealth of information from the skeleton indicates it was distantly related to other known African titanosaurs, except for some interesting similarities with another dinosaur, Malawisaurus, from just across the Tanzania-
Malawi border.”

Titanosaurs are best known from Cretaceous rocks in South America. 

But the new species discovered by his team in Tanzania, Egypt and other parts of the African Continent reveal a more complex picture of their evolution on the planet.

Co-author Dr Patrick O’Connor, professor of anatomy at Ohio University, said: “The discovery of dinosaurs such as Mnyamawamtuka and others we have recently discovered is like doing a four-dimensional connect the dots.

“Each new discovery adds a bit more detail to the picture of what ecosystems 
on continental Africa were like during the Cretaceous, allowing us to assemble 
a more holistic view of biotic change in the past.”

The five-year excavation process included field teams suspended by ropes and 
large-scale mechanical excavators to recover one of the more complete specimens from this part of the sauropod dinosaur family tree.

Dr O’Connor said: “Without the dedication of several field teams, including some whose members donned climbing gear for the early excavations, the skeleton would have eroded away into the river during quite intense wet seasons in this part of the East African Rift System.”

Mnyamawamtuka and the other Tanzanian titanosaurs are not the only animals discovered by the researchers.

Remains of bizarre relatives of early crocodiles, the oldest evidence for insect farming from fossilised termite nests and tantalising clues about the early evolution of monkeys and apes have been revealed in recent years.

Such findings from the East African Rift provide a crucial glimpse into ancient ecosystems of Africa and provide the impetus for future work elsewhere on the continent.

The titanosaurs were a diverse group of sauropods that lived between 163 and 
66 million years ago when the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid strike.