Paleontologists discover remains of an earliest relative of dinosaurs

This artist's rendering provided by Mark Witton in April 2017 shows a Teleocrater rhadinus center a four-legged meat-eating reptile and a close relative of dinosaurs eating a relative of mammals Cynognathus. The large dicynodont Dolichuranus is seen

The fossils were excavated from the Manda Beds of southern Tanzania. Although dinosaur predators had two legs, Teleocrater instead was four-legged. But their necks and tails were unusually long, and the bones bore certain markings only found in dinosaurs.

So yes, animals such as the tank-like Triceratops and even rather croc-ish Spinosaurus, because they are both dinosaurs, fall into the "avian lineage" pile.

Titled "The earliest bird-line archosaurs and the assembly of the dinosaur body plan", the paper appeared in the journal Nature. Most assumed that they would look like miniature dinosaurs, be about the size of a chicken, and walk on two legs.

Most people know that the first creatures to live on land were amphibians that climbed out of the sea, and they know these creatures eventually gave way to the dinosaurs that we know and love.

Teleocraters are believed to have resembled the modern-day monitor lizards. Teleocrater bears a depression in its skull usually found only in dinosaurs, its hip muscles attached to its thigh bones in the same manner as those of birds, and its vertebrae are similar to those of other avemetatarsalins.

Enter the newly identified 247-million- to 242-million-year-old Teleocrater rhadinus, a close relative of dinosaurs that also happened to walk on all fours and share some key features with the ancestors of crocodiles.

He said: "'It's astonishing to think that it's taken more than 80 years for the true scientific importance of these fossils to be understood and published".

Co-author Professor Paul Barrett, from the Natural History Museum, added: 'Our discovery shows the value of maintaining and re-assessing historical collections - many new discoveries, like this one, can be made by looking through museum collections with fresh eyes'. Charig died with the puzzle still missing the needed pieces.

The new Teleocrater fossils prove this creature was part of the bird and dinosaur family, an ancestor that lived right after dinosaurs split from the crocodile-like family on the evolutionary tree around 250 million years ago.

"Teleocrater fundamentally changes our ideas about the earliest history of dinosaur relatives", remarked Sterling Nesbitt, the paper's lead author.

Many palaeontologists have wondered what the earliest dinosaur relatives looked like, as the fossil record in this time period is sparse.

The ancestors of dinosaurs had "crankles" - crocodile ankles, scientists have concluded after finding a lost fossil which had been forgotten about for decades.

The team, which includes researchers from the United States, England, Argentina, South Africa, Sweden and Russian Federation, identified several features, like a depression in its skull, that further showed the Teleocrater was an archosaur from the bird lineage.

The late paleontologist F. Rex Parrington first discovered Teleocrater rhadinus fossils in the Ruhuhu Basin of southern Tanzania in 1933.

Recent research has revealed new specimens of an odd, not very well known animal called the Teleocrater rhadinus.

But while the teleocrater isn't a director ancestor of dinosaurs, researchers say that it quashes preconceptions about early creatures being more akin to dinosaurs. The genus name refers to the Greek "Teleos" and "krater", which mean "complete" and "bowl", respectively - a reference to its closed hipbone socket.


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