On the News @ The Los Angeles Times
Archosaur fossils found in Tanzania are forcing scientists to rethink the evolution of dinosaurs
“Scientists have identified one of the earliest known dinosaur relatives — and it doesn’t look anything like they expected.
Researchers had thought that the oldest dinosaur cousins would look rather like small, two-legged dinosaurs themselves. Instead, Teleocrater rhadinus actually stretched seven to 10 feet long, boasted a long neck and tail, and walked on all fours.
The findings, described in the journal Nature, could force paleontologists to redraw their understanding of dinosaurs’ origins, as well as the nature of the reptiles that came before them.
“This just 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,” said lead author Sterling Nesbitt, a vertebrate paleontologist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
Dinosaurs are part of a larger group known as the archosaurs — a lineage of reptiles that split into a “bird-line” branch that includes pterosaurs, dinosaurs and birds, and a “crocodilian” branch whose living members today include crocodiles and alligators.
Paleontologists have long tried to predict what those early bird-line reptiles looked like, soon after the split with the crocodilian branch. But they haven’t been able to do so because of the large gaps in the fossil record of the transitional period before dinosaurs emerged in the mid-to-late Triassic Period, roughly 230 million years ago. Which dinosaur traits are unique to dinosaurs, and which are shared with these earlier archosaurs, they have wondered? Without a wide range of older archosaur fossils, it was difficult to say for sure.” (…) READ MORE
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