Apr 18, 2017 05:04 AM EDT
Recently, a missing link in the evolution of dinosaurs has been found by scientists. The 245-million-year-old Teleocrater fossil, a new species of dinosaur cousin, suggests some features that tells that dinosaurs evolved much earlier than previously thought to be.
Based on the discovery, scientists from the University of Birmingham in Chicago studied the fossilized remains of a carnivorous reptile called Teleocrater rhadinus. Per Phys.org, an article published in Nature, Teleocrater rhadinus stands approximately seven to 10 feet in length. The animal has a long tail and neck, and walked on four legs like a crocodile and looks like that of a modern monitor lizard.
"Teleocrater has unexpectedly crocodile-like features that are causing us completely reassess what we thought about the earliest stages of dinosaur evolution," Field Museum associate curator of fossil animals and one of the authors of the paper Ken Angielczyk said. In addition, Angielczyk also explained that "scientists generally do not love the term 'missing link', that's the kind of what a Teleocrater is a missing link between dinosaurs and the common ancestor they share with crocodiles."
Teleocrater rhadinus roamed the earth during the Triassic Period more than 245 million years ago that predates the first true dinosaurs ever to roam the Earth by around ten million years. The fossil record tells that Teleocrater appears just after a large group of reptiles known as archosaurs split into a bird branch and a crocodile branch.
According to Mail Online, all the fossilized specimen of Teleocrater used in the study were collected from the rocks of the Manda Beds in SoutheTanzania. Paleontologist Allan Craig, a former curator of fossil reptiles, amphibians and birds at the National History Museum, first study the fossil evidence in 1933. However, Craig died before he could make a breakthrough.
Richard Butler from the University of Birmingham reassessed the samples together with others discovered in the same area in 2015 from Craig's work on Teleocrater. The breakthrough changed the concept of paleontologists around the world about the evolution of the early dinosaur relatives, with many scientists anticipating that such creatures would be smaller, bipedal and more dinosaur-like.
"It is astonishing to think that it's taken more than 80 years for the true scientific importance of these fossils to be understood and published," Butler said in his statement in Phys.org. Also, professor Paul Barett from the National History Museum and one of the main authors of the work on Teleocrater said that Allan Craig would have been thrilled to see that his work is finally named and occupying the position in the tree of life.
The discovery of Teleocrater made the world of dinosaur evolution turn around. Scientists reassessed every historical collection, as well as museums, are looking through some fresh new eyes from the curious world.