Researchers first discovered Teleocrater rhadinus, a common ancestor of birds and dinosaurs, in Tanzania several decades ago, but missing bones made it hard for scientists to accurately model the reptile.
Scientists have discovered what they call as the "missing link" to the lineage of dinosaurs with their common ancestors, the crocodiles.
Fragments of a 245 million-year-old Teleocrater rhadinus studied by an expert at the London museum in the 1950s have shed new light on how the massive creatures developed before they dominated the earth.
"We found fossils that we thought might be from T. rhadinus, but it wasn't until we were back in the lab that we realized we'd found something really unbelievable", said co-author Ken Angielczyk, a curator at the Field Museum in Chicago.
Scientists have identified one of the earliest known dinosaur relatives - and it doesn't look anything like they expected. The reptile was a lightly built carnivore between about 7 and 10 feet long.
Well, well, well... looks like it's time for yet another shake-up in the dinosaur story, this time courtesy of one of the animals' early relatives, Teleocrater rhadinus.
The Teleocrater's anatomy has features that were present in the last common ancestor of the two branches, like crocodilian-like ankle joint and some other features considered dinosaur-like.
Iraq Says ISIS Has Lost Most of the Land it Seized
-Islamic State has lost most of the territory it has held in Iraq since 2014, an Iraqi military spokesman said on Tuesday. Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January and launched the battle in the west in February.
Scientists previously thought that the early relatives of the dinosaurs were small and "very-dinosaur-like" with their features evolving rapidly after breaking away from the crocodile-like side. The first one evolved into crocodiles while the second group evolved into dinosaurs and birds.
Virginia Tech paleontologist Sterling Nesbitt, the study's lead author, said fossils representing at least four individuals were found in southern Tanzania, representing about half the skeleton. Charig never published a study on the creature, but informally named it T. rhadinus, a name the researchers of the new study kept to honor him. About 250 million years ago, that group split into two branches: crocodilians (which include alligators and crocodiles) and another branch that includes dinosaurs, birds and extinct flying reptiles called pterosaurs (TARE-uh-sores). While dinosaur predators were bipedal, Teleocrater instead was four-legged, looking superficially like a modern Komodo dragon.
The finding, published in the journal Nature April 12, fills a critical gap in the fossil record.
Its appearance differed from what scientists had expected from the earliest representatives of the dinosaur evolutionary lineage.
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. "It indicates that dinosaur origins should be re-examined now that we know more about the complex history and traits of these early ancestors".
The first fossils of Telocrater were collected in 1933 by F. Rex Parrington - a famous palaeontologist based at the University of Cambridge.
What paleontologists found most surprising about the creature were the bones in its ankles, which were more similar to those found in crocodiles than those found in dinosaurs and birds - even though Teleocrater was on team bird and not team croc.