Croc-Like Fossil Teleocrater Rhadinus Reveals Clues To The Evolution of Dinosaur

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Apr 13, 2017 04:19 AM EDT

Paleontologists excavating a basin in southern Tanzania have uncovered 245-million-year-old fossils belonging to one of the earliest relatives of dinosaurs. The carnivorous creature, which is not a direct ancestor to dinosaurs but more of a close cousin, is called Teleocrater rhadinus. The discovery, which was reported Wednesday in Nature, may help scientists fill in gaps in our understanding of how dinosaurs evolved as well as provide insight into what their earliest relatives looked like.
(Photo : Science & Technology/YouTube)

Scientists have discovered what they call as the "missing link" to the lineage of dinosaurs with their common ancestors, the crocodiles. The discovery of the Teleocrater Rhadinus goes down as the oldest known cousin of the dinosaur. The newest discovery fills a huge gap in fossil history.

Phys.org reveals that the Teleocrater Rhadinus roamed the Earth during the Triassic Period more than 245 million years ago. This puts the age of the first true dinosaurs to around 10 million years. Fossil records show that they existed after a large group of reptiles called archosaurs, which was classified as two groups-a bird and a crocodile branch. The Teleocrater are classified as the earliest known members of the bird group of the archosaurs.

A paper published in Nature placed the Teleocrater Rhadinus at 7 - 10 feet long, with a long neck and tail, and walked on four crocodile-like legs. Scientists based their description of the croc-like reptile from a rock unit called Manda Beds located in the Ruhuhu Basin of Southern Tanzania. These fossils were first discovered in 1933 by a paleontologist named F. Rex Parrington.

The discovery of the Teleocrater Rhadinus overturned earlier beliefs that dinosaur relatives were smaller, bipedal, and 'dinosaur-like.' According to University of Birmingham's Dr. Richard Butler, the Teleocrater creates a fundamental challenge to their models of what the close relatives of dinosaurs would have looked like. "Teleocrater is hugely exciting because it blows holes in many of our classic ideas of dinosaur origins," Butler said.

New Atlas reveals that the discovery of the Teleocrater Rhadinus validates the paleontological mystery of the first fossil found by Parrington in the 1930s. However, it was the British paleontologist Alan Charig that coined the term Teleocrater because they never fitted any evolutionary lineage.

The original Teleocrater fossil found in 1930s had no ankle bones. In 2015, a new team discovered several new fossils. The team is set to return to the dig site to look for the missing parts and shed more light to the earliest dinosaur linkage.

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