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Scientists Discover 245-Million-Year-Old Fossil Of Early Relative Of The Dinosaur

13 April 2017, 12:13 pm EDT By Anu Passary Tech Times
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Scientists discovered a 245-million-year-old fossil belonging to the Teleocrater rhadinus, one of the earliest relatives of dinosaur. The fossil led scientists to believe that the creature walked on four legs, similar to modern-day crocodiles.  ( Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales )

New revelations have come to light regarding the earliest relatives of the dinosaur. During an excavation in a basin in southern Tanzania, Africa, paleontologists unearthed the fossil of one of the oldest relatives of the dinosaur.

The 245-million-year old Teleocrater rhadinus fossil may aid in filling in the gaps in our understanding of the evolution of dinosaurs. It may also provide deeper insight into what the creature's early relatives looked like.

Teleocrater rhadinus, a carnivorous creature, is more of a close cousin to the dinosaur rather than a direct ancestor. It is now being deduced that the animal walked on four legs and exhibited physical traits, which can be associated with modern-day alligators and crocodiles.

Teleocrater Rhadinus: A Croc-Like Dinosaur Cousin

The excavated Teleocrater rhadinus fossil measured six to seven feet long. Paleontologists estimate that the creature lived in the Triassic Period, which means that it pre-dated even the earliest dinosaurs.

"We found fossils that we thought might be from Teleocrater, but it wasn't until we were back in the lab that we realized we'd found something really amazing," shared Kenneth Angielczyk, one of the authors of the paper, which details the findings.

Angielczyk shared that the team discovered that the early relatives of the dinosaur were surprisingly "not dinosaur-like." The crocodile-like features of the Teleocrater led them to reassess the established beliefs on the early phases of dinosaur evolution.

The paleontologists named the creature Teleocrater rhadinus, which means "slender complete basin." This is a reference to the creature's slim build, as well as closed hip socket.

London's Natural History Museum's Paul Barrett, also the paper's author, shared that the Teleocrater was not very big. It would have probably been the size of an average family dog.

He further stated to BBC Radio 5 Live, that the Teleocrater rhadinus would have resembled the komodo dragons, a "souped-up" version. However, according to him, the Teleocrater rhadinus was not an "armored thing" like crocodiles.

Teleocrater Rhadinus: Its History And Family Tree

Teleocrater rhadinus, can be hailed as distant cousins of dinosaurs and even crocodiles. The creature appeared after the archosaurs split into two branches.

Archosaurs were a large group of animals from where one branch led to the evolution of dinosaurs, and ultimately birds. The other group — the Teleocrater rhadinus — went on to evolve in to modern-day crocodiles and alligators.

The anatomy of the Teleocrater rhadinus is a combination of crocodile-like ankle joints and some distinct dinosaur-like features, barring the size.

The very first Teleocrater rhadinus fossil was discovered in Tanzania in 1933 and was kept under observation at London's Natural History Museum in the 1950s.

However, at that juncture, some crucial bone structures of the fossil were missing, such as the ankle joints.

Owing to this limitation, at the time, researchers were unable to ascertain if this species was closely related to crocodiles or dinosaurs.

It wasn't until 2015 that the close association between dinosaurs and Teleocrater rhadinus was discovered. In 2015, paleontologists made the path breaking discovery of a set of Teleocrater rhadinus bones in Tanzania.

Further in-depth studies of the fossils led the researches and scientist to conclude that the Teleocrater rhadinus came from the archosaur bird lineage.

"The discovery of such an important new species is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. Teleocrater fundamentally changes our ideas about the earliest history of dinosaur relatives," remarked Sterling Nesbitt, the paper's lead author.

The discovery has been published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, April 12.

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