Crocodile-Like Ancient Cousin, Teleocrater Rhadinus, Confuses Scientists — Dinosaur Evolution

This artist's rendering provided by Mark Witton in April 2017 shows a Teleocrater rhadinus center a four-legged meat-eating reptile and a close relative of dinosaurs eating a relative of mammals Cynognathus. The large dicynodont Dolichuranus is seen

This artist's rendering provided by Mark Witton in April 2017 shows a Teleocrater rhadinus center a four-legged meat-eating reptile and a close relative of dinosaurs eating a relative of mammals Cynognathus. The large dicynodont Dolichuranus is seen

One of the earliest relatives of dinosaurs had some features we associate today with crocodiles and alligators, a study suggests.

Image: Paul Barrett, Natural History Museum, London, artwork by Mark Witton.

"However, Teleocrater shows us that bird-line archosaurs initially inherited many crocodile-like features from the common ancestor of all archosaurs, and that the "typical" bird-line features evolved in a step-wise fashion over a longer period of time", Angielczyk said. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly. 250 million years ago, the archosaurs split off into two branches. It was two feet tall at the level of the hips.

Scientists believe the teleocrater was around even before dinosaurs. The discovery may also shed light on what dinosaur's relative looked like.

Well, well, well... looks like it's time for yet another shake-up in the dinosaur story, this time courtesy of one of the animals' early relatives, Teleocrater rhadinus.

Seven to ten feet long, with a long neck and tail, and four crocodylian-like legs, the newly described species of Teleocrater rhadinus looked nothing like scientists imaged it.

Those two different lineages, avian versus crocodilian, have always been identified by their types of ankle joints. The Teleocrater rhadinus, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and birds were all parts of the "archosaurs" group. Sterling Nesbitt, a researcher at Virginia Tech and the lead author of a report published this week on Teleocrater rhadinus in the journal Nature.

In a broad sense, the thought of how certain carnivorous dinosaurs evolved into creatures still alive today - birds, crocodiles, lizards etc - was a gradual reduction in size, bi-pedalling around the planet until all-fours was a more appealing option. "That tells us that the crocodile ankle was primitive for the earliest archosaurs and that the bird ankle was derived from a crocodile-like ankle".

He further stated to BBC Radio 5 Live, that the Teleocrater rhadinus would have resembled the komodo dragons, a "souped-up" version. Teleocrater, living more than 245 million years ago during the Triassic Period, pre-dated dinosaurs.

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Fossils of a four-legged, meat-eating reptile are helping paint a more complicated picture of the ancestry of dinosaurs than scientists had understood.

"Our discovery shows the value of maintaining and re-assessing historical collections: many new discoveries, like this one, can be made by looking through museum collections with fresh eyes", he said.

Although he realised their importance, Charig never completed his research on the specimens, and when he died in the late 1990s, his work remained unpublished. Though they preceded dinosaurs by millions of years, they went extinct before dinosaurs first appeared in the fossil record.

"Surprisingly, early dinosaur relatives were pretty profoundly not dinosaur-like", Angielczyk added. "[It] is a missing link between dinosaurs and the common ancestor they share with crocodiles".

The T. rhadinus fossil was first uncovered in Tanzania the 1930s, but had sat in a museum collection, with palaeontologists unaware of its significance.

The samples, along with others discovered in the same area in 2015, were reassessed by the team, which included Dr Richard Butler from the University of Birmingham.

All specimens of Teleocrater are from a rock unit called the Manda Beds, in the Ruhuhu Basin of southern Tanzania, Africa. It's shown preying on a cynodont, a distant relative of mammals.

The creature was not a direct ancestor, but was more like a cousin.