The fossils of the earliest known dinosaur have been discovered by the scientists, who claim that the relative of the monstrous creatures were quite similar to crocodiles. The fossils of a 245-million-year old giant reptile that walked on four legs just like a crocodile have been unearthed.
Called Teleocrater rhadinus, the six-foot-long, lizard-like carnivore was found in Tanzania. This discovery fundamentally changes human ideas about the evolution of the prehistoric animals.
Researchers said Teleocrater rhadinus is not a direct ancestor of dinosaurs but the oldest known dinosaur cousin and earliest member of the bird-like side of the family.
Teleocrater rhadinus didn’t resemble much to a dinosaur but to the monitor lizards that are alive today, they said.
The Teleocrater rhadinus was between six and ten feet long. The length includes its long neck and tail. It probably weighed between twenty and sixty-five pounds and around two feet tall at the hip.
Researchers said the Teleocrater rhadinus comes in the bird-like archosaur camp because of its features like the jaw muscle attachments at the back of its skull. It has a lot in common with its more distant crocodilian cousins, they said.
The ankle joints of Teleocrater rhadinus could rotate from side to side and can also flex up and down. On the other hand, the ankle joints of dinosaurs and birds could only manage a hinge-like-up-and-down motion.
That would have given the animal a more splayed, crocodile-like gait rather than an ostrich-like trot.
“We used to think that many of the distinctive features of bird-line archosaurs evolved very quickly after they diverged from the crocodile line because early bird-line archosaurs like Marasuchus, Dromoeron, and Lagerpeton were small and very dinosaur-like,” said Ken Angielczyk, associate curator at The Field Museum in the US.
“However, Teleocrater shows us that bird-line archosaurs initially inherited many crocodile-like features from the common ancestor of all archosaurs, and that the ‘typical’ bird-line features evolved in a step-wise fashion over a longer period of time,” Angielczyk said.
Teleocrater is a missing link between dinosaurs and the common ancestor they share with crocodiles, he said.
“The discovery of such an important new species is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, said Sterling Nesbitt, an assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
“The discovery of Teleocrater fundamentally changes our ideas about the earliest history of dinosaur relatives,” said Nesbitt. The findings were published in the journal Nature.