|Published : 14 Apr 2017, 11:45:09 | Updated : 14 Apr 2017, 11:47:12|
Earliest dinosaur relatives walked like crocodile
One of the earliest relatives of dinosaurs had some features to be associated with crocodiles and alligators, a study suggests.
Many palaeontologists have wondered what the earliest dinosaur relatives looked like, as the fossil record in this time period is sparse.
Some assumed they walked on two legs, looking a bit like miniature dinosaurs.
But the newly described creature walked on four legs like a croc.
The 2-3m (7-10ft) carnivorous animal, unearthed in southern Tanzania, lived some 245 million years ago during the Triassic Period. It pre-dated the earliest dinosaurs, according to a global media report.
Prof Paul Barrett, from London's Natural History Museum, one of the authors on the new paper, said: "This is a little animal that we call Teleocrater. It's not very big...it probably would have weighed about the same as the average family dog."
Teleocrater rhadinus appeared just after a large group of animals known as archosaurs split into one branch that led to dinosaurs (and, eventually, birds) and another branch that led to today's alligators and crocodiles.
Its anatomy combines features present in the last common ancestor of these groups, such as a crocodilian-like ankle joint, with some features considered characteristic of dinosaurs.
Sterling Nesbitt, one of the new study's authors from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, US, said: "The discovery of Teleocrater fundamentally changes our ideas about the earliest history of dinosaur relatives."