Early Dinosaurs Looked More Like Crocodiles

Posted: Apr 13 2017, 5:37am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 13 2017, 7:37am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Early Dinosaur Cousin Looked More Like a Crocodile
Life model of the new species Teleocrater rhadinus, a close relative of dinosaurs, preying upona juvenile cynodont, a distant relative of mammals. Credit: Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales
  • Early Dinosaur Cousin Had Crocodile Ankles

The discovery of the fossils of an old dinosaur cousin shows that it had crocodilian features.

Most paleontologists say that the earliest ancestors of the dinosaurs looked like smaller versions of the saurians. These were miniature, carnivores that walked on two legs.

However, in a recent paper published in a journal, this oldest of dinosaurs was described as a six foot long lizard that was a meat-eater to boot. It had the scientific name of Teleocrater rhadinus.

This creature had crocodilian features. This has forced the paleontologists to revise their erstwhile models of the earliest dinosaurs.

The surprising thing is that the earliest ancestors of dinosaurs were not the least bit like the dinosaurs. They were a whole different breed. Almost all dinosaurs are archosaurs.

This is a group that comprises dinosaurs, birds, pterosaurs and crocodilians. 250 million years ago, the archosaurs split off into two branches. One was a bird-like group and the other one was a crocodilian group.

The shocking fact is that the Teleocrater rhadinus was the earliest member of the bird-like group. This makes it the oldest known cousin of the dinosaurs.

The only problem is that the Teleocrater didn’t look one bit like the dinosaurs. Rather it resembles the monitor lizard in its outer physiognomy. It was six to ten feet in length. It had a long neck and an even longer tail. Its weight was between 20 and 65 pounds. It was two feet tall at the level of the hips.

While a few features such as the jaw muscle attachments at the back of the neck make it resemble the dinosaurs, other features set it miles apart from dinosaurs. The crocodiles and alligators of today are what it actually resembles the most.

The Teleocrater had a crocodilian gait as well. It did not have the ostrich-like gait that most dinosaurs normally had. This old ancestor is apparently the missing link between dinosaurs and the ancient crocodilian ancestors they had.

This beast was identified for the first time in the 50s by a paleontologist named Alan Charig. He in fact didn’t even make the connection of this ancient saurian with the dinosaurs.

Thus the creature remained a mystery for a long time. It was only a bit of lab analysis which took place much later that led to the surprising discovery that this was a distant cousin of the dinosaurs.

The finding of this study got published in the journal Nature.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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