Dinosaurs: are they 10 million years older?
2010-03-08 0:00

By Agence France-Presse | CosmosMagazine.com

Scientists have uncovered the bones of a dinosaur-like creature that roamed Earth at least 10 million years earlier than the oldest known dinosaur, according to a recent study.

Discovered in Tanzania, Asilisaurus kongwe would have been waist-high to a human, ate plants, and lived some 240 million years ago, said the study, published in Nature.

The discovery means that dinosaurs probably appeared much earlier than previously thought, the researchers said.


An illustration of Asilisaurus kongwe.
Credit: Marlene Donnelly/Field Museum

Dinos just one of many large animal groups

It also points to a rich variety of fauna during the crucial period before dinosaurs began their 165-million domination of the planet.

"This new evidence suggests they were really only one of several large and distinct groups of animals that exploded in diversity in the Triassic, including silesaurs, pterosaurs [flying reptiles] and several groups of crocodilian relatives," said Sterling Nesbitt, a researcher at the University of Texas in Austin.

The newly found creature is a silesaur, which Nesbitt described as a "sister" taxon to the one that gave rise to dinosaurs.

Sister taxon in Tanzania

Their evolutionary relationship would be roughly analogous to that between humans and chimps, whose genomes overlap by 99%, he said.

Silesaurs and dinosaurs lived side-by-side throughout much of the Triassic Period, between 250 and 200 million years ago.

Fossil bones from at least 14 Asilisaurus specimens were recovered from a site in southern Tanzania. Scientists were able to reconstruct a nearly complete skeleton, with only small portions of the head and hand missing.

The animal stood half-a-meter to a meter (1.5 to 2.0 feet) tall at the hips, and were one-to-three meters (three-to-five feet) long.

Abundant life in Triassic

They weighed between 10 and 30kg, and walked on all four legs. The shape of the teeth and a beak-like lower jaw suggest that the animals could eat meat or plants. Scientists speculated that the animals were originally carnivores but evolved into omnivores to enhance their chances of survival.

While they did not persist as long as dinosaurs, silesaurs had a good run, lasting some 45 million years.

The first specimen from the silesaur group was discovered only in 2003, but since then eight other specimens have been dug up from Triassic rock around the globe. "This goes to show that there are whole groups of animals out there that we’ve never even found evidence of that were very abundant during the Triassic," Nesbitt said.

The names Asilisaurus kongwe comes from "asili," which means "founder" in Swahili, "sauros, the Greek for "lizard", and "kongwe," Swahili for "ancient."

Article from: CosmosMagazine.com



Related Articles
Massive hoard of 65-million-years old dinosaur eggs found in India
Canadian scientist aims to turn chickens into dinosaurs
Early human relative predates even dinosaurs
Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber
Scientists Come to a Conclusion: Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs


Latest News from our Front Page

Your Smartphone Could be Tracking You Every 3 Minutes, Study Says
2015-04-01 2:24
Your apps want to know where you are Smartphone apps regularly collect large amounts of data on users’ locations, sometimes as often as every three minutes, new research suggests. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study where they asked 23 people to use their Android smartphones normally, and tracked location data requests from each device with specially designed software, the Wall ...
Facebook accused of tracking all users even if they delete accounts, ask never to be followed
2015-04-01 2:14
A new report claims that Facebook secretly installs tracking cookies on users’ computers, allowing them to follow users around the internet even after they’ve left the website, deleted their account and requested to be no longer followed. Academic researchers said that the report showed that the company was breaking European law with its tracking policies. The law requires that users are ...
'Gay cake' bakery discriminated against client over sexual orientation, court told
2015-04-01 2:37
David Scoffield QC, acting for the bakery, said if Lee’s argument was right, a Muslim printer could not turn down a contract to print leaflets about the prophet Muhammad, an atheist could not turn down an order saying God made the world and a Roman Catholic printer could not decline making leaflets calling for the legalisation of abortion on demand. Judge ...
Gay rights groups criticize Indiana religious liberties law
2015-04-01 0:10
Editor's note: Would it be ok if a court forced a bakery operated by homosexuals, to make a cake for a Christian that says: "Homosexuality is a sin"? What would the reactions be? One way tolerance? Respecting peoples beliefs extends in all directions or in no direction. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a religious liberties bill into law Thursday that has been ...
Daily Show's Trevor Noah under fire for Twitter jokes about Jews and women
2015-04-01 0:01
Trevor Noah – the surprise choice to succeed Jon Stewart as high-profile host of satirical news program The Daily Show – has come under fire for a series of controversial tweets he posted before his appointment. The South African comedian – son of a Swiss-German father and half-Jewish South African mother – was criticised for having made tasteless jokes about Jews ...
More News »