Fossils discovered in Southern Tanzania back in 1933 told a story of an animal that walked the Earth before the dinosaurs did; circa 245 million years ago. Weighing in at about the size of your average dog, this creature would have looked akin to a slim and large komodo dragon.
Image Credit: Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales
Dubbed Teleocrater, the creature was long misunderstood because bits and pieces of the fossils discovered so long ago were incomplete, but thanks to another discovery in 2015, scientists were able to get more of the data that they were missing from the original uncovering that answered a lot of questions about their checkered past.
The findings, which appear in the journal Nature, suggest that Teleocrater walked very similarly to way a crocodile does today. Scientists came to this conclusion by studying ankle remnants that weren’t present in the initial 1933 discovery, but were present in the new 2015 discovery.
“Teleocrater fundamentally challenges our models of what the close relatives of dinosaurs would have looked like,” paper author Richard Butler explained in a statement.
“Dinosaurs were amazingly successful animals. It's natural to want to know where they came from, and how they became so dominant. Teleocrater is hugely exciting because it blows holes in many of our classic ideas of dinosaur origins.”
Teleocrater was a creature that eventually led to the evolution of the dinosaurs, but it’s worth noting that they’re not directly related to one another. This is a pretty difficult concept to wrap one’s mind around, but because we have so little evidence of what existed around these times, all we can do is speculate at this point in time.
On the other hand, we do know that their existence would eventually branch off into two directions; the crocodiles and the dinosaurs – the former, which is more of a reptilian creature, and the latter, which is more of an avian-styled creature as recent studies have indicated.
The research teams intend to return to the site of the discovered remnants so they can find more fossils that can help tell more of the story. Perhaps they’ll even be able to find a missing link between Teleocrater and the dinosaurs.