On the News @ The Conversation
Dragon-like fossil discovery could change our view of dinosaur origins
“What did the ancestors of dinosaurs look like? For decades, our knowledge of close dinosaur relatives has been based largely on animals like the Triassic Period reptile Marasuchus, a tiny, squirrel-sized critter that moved rapidly on two legs.
Dinosaur ancestors, according to the conventional story, looked much like dinosaurs, just shrunken down to the size of something you might accidentally squash under your foot. However, in a new paper in the journal Nature, my colleagues and I describe a new species of Triassic reptile, Teleocrater rhadinus, which fundamentally challenges this status quo of dinosaur origins.
Dinosaurs appeared during the Triassic Period, with the oldest uncontroversial dinosaur fossils being about 230m years old. Unfortunately, early dinosaur fossils are so rare that many theories about their origins and rise to global dominance are controversial.
One thing we are pretty sure about is that dinosaurs belong to a major branch of the reptile evolutionary tree that also includes birds, pterosaurs, and the dinosaur-like reptiles known as dinosauromorphs (like Marasuchus). The scientific name for this great evolutionary lineage is Avemetatarsalia, or “bird-feet”.
Our research suggests that the new species, Teleocrater, is the oldest known member of this important group. Although this does not make Teleocrater a direct ancestor of dinosaurs, rather a close cousin, it still gives us clues to what those ancestors might have looked like.” (…) READ MORE
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