Earliest known dinosaur discovered
When it was alive, the world's continents were joined in a vast landmass called Pangaea, and the area of Tanzania where the fossils were found would have been part of the southern Pangaea that included Africa, South America, Antarctica and Australia. Theorists have long argued there should have been dinosaurs walking the Earth in the Middle Triassic period, which ended about 237 million years ago, but until now the evidence has been ambiguous, said Sterling Nesbitt at the University of Washington in Seattle who led the study, published in the journal Biology Letters.
"If the newly named Nyasasaurus parringtoni is not the earliest dinosaur, then it is the closest relative found so far," said Nesbitt.
"What's really neat about this specimen is that it has a lot of history. Found in the '30s, first described in the 1950s … Now 80 years later, we're putting it all together." The researchers plan further field work in Tanzania to find more fossils and build a better picture of the animal's anatomy.
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