Croc-like dinosaur cousin excites scientists

This artist's rendering provided by Gabriel Lio in April 2017 shows the Teleocrater rhadinus a four-legged meat-eating reptile and a close relative of dinosaurs hunting a cynodont a close relative of mammals. Researchers who found its fossils in Tanza

Scientists can trace the Teleocrater, which lived more than 245 million years ago, back to the time just after a large group of reptiles known as the archosaurs split into a bird branch, which would also become the dinosaurs, and a crocodile branch, also creating modern alligators.

Researchers said Teleocrater rhadinus is not a direct ancestor of dinosaurs but the oldest known dinosaur cousin and earliest member of the bird-like side of the family.

Teleocrater rhadinus had a long neck and tail and was 7- 10 feet (2.1-3 m) in length.

A newly characterized fossil species from the early days of dinosaurs requires a complete rethink of dinosaur evolution, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. But he never published his findings - he and other scientists didn't know almost as much about the relationship between dinosaurs, birds and crocodiles, a set of species we call "Archosaurs", as we do today. But the Teleocrater existed after this split, on the bird-like side of the family.

It was first identified by a British paleontologist named Alan Charig in the 1950s, using fossils that were collected in the 1930s, though contemporary understanding finally allows the installation of teleocrater into a specific part of the evolutionary chain.

"Now we know with Teleocrater having that ankle, the common ancestor of birds and crocodiles had a crocodile-like ankle", Nesbitt said.

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Scientists from institutions including the the University of Birmingham and the Fields Museum in Chicago discovered that the creature, an early "cousin" of dinosaurs, was much less dinosaur-like than they were expecting.

"The discovery of such an important new species is a once-in-a-lifetime experience", Sterling Nesbitt, an assistant professor of geosciences at Virginia Tech, said in a news release. It's a missing link between dinosaurs and the common ancestor the dinos shared with crocodiles.

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.

For decades, scientists have wondered what the earliest dinosaur relatives looked like.

Follow us here: Dinosaurs actually belonged to a larger group called archosaurs, which also includes birds, flying reptiles and crocodilians. Though they preceded dinosaurs by millions of years, they went extinct before dinosaurs first appeared in the fossil record.

Other remains of Teleocrater were collected by an global team including numerous authors of this paper in 2015.

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Life reconstruction of the new species Teleocrater rhadinus, a close relative of dinosaurs.

The late paleontologist Rex Parrington found T. rhadinus fossils in Tanzania in 1933. Teleocrater maintained a crocodile-like ankle bone, unlike birds and dinosaurs.

Among these track variations, five different types of predators, six long-necked herbivorous sauropods, four two-legged herbivorous ornithopods and six armoured dinosaurs were confirmed.

The discovery of Teleocrater rhadinus, however, has forced scientists to reassess their ideas.

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.

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