Monday, 17 April 2017

The oldest known dinosaur relative looks a lot like a freaky crocodile

April 13, 2017

by Chuck Bednar

The recent discovery of 245-million-year-old fossils belonging to one of the earliest dinosaur relatives could drastically alter our understanding of these giants lizards’ origins, as the species turned out to be much larger than researchers anticipated and walked on four legs.

Known as a Teleocrater, the creature in question was classified as an archosaur – a group which included birds, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and crocodilians, according to the New York Times. While it was a cousin to the dinosaurs and not a direct ancestor, scientists nonetheless believed that it may shed new light on how these reptiles originally evolved during the Triassic period. However, as the Chicago Tribune noted, a team of paleontologists working at a basin in southern Tanzania made a surprising discovery: they discovered Teleocrater rhadinus fossils that revealed that the species was not a small, bipedal reptile, but actually a seven-to-10-foot-long creature that walked on four legs and had a longer-than-expected tail and neck.

The discovery, which was reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, “goes to show that there’s a lot more out there that we just didn’t know, especially the early history of the larger group that dinosaurs belonged to: Archosauria,” lead author Sterling J. Nesbitt, a vertebrate paleontologist at Virginia Tech, told the Tribune. His team’s research could force scientists to reconsider what the first dinosaurs, and their ancestors, actually looked like, the newspaper noted.

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