Friday, March 5, 2010

Dog-sized creature was almost a dinosaur

Dino-like animal was tiny, weighing about that of a young child

A four-legged animal about the size of a large dog with a long tail is now the oldest known relative of Dinosaurs, dating back few 240 million years.

Paleontologists recently examined the bones from at least 14 individuals of this proto-dinosaur that were found out in southern Tanzania.

The dino-like animal was small, weighing about that of a young child, and possiblely munched on plants.

Until now, the Fossil record proposes that the oldest known dinosaurs went back just 230 million years. But the new finding, tells scientists dinosaurs were around much earlier and their lineage had already split off from a group of dinosaur-like relatives by about 240 million years before.

From the various bones of the species now called Asilisaurus kongwe, Sterling Nesbitt, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, and his colleagues pieced together a nearly whole skeleton of the animal.

The researchers believe the dinosaur relative was about 3 to 10 feet long (1 to 2 meters) from nose to tail and about 3 feet (1 meter) tall from head to toes, Nesbitt said. The animal weighed in the neighborhood of 10 to 30 kg.

It walked on all fours and sported an upturned beak possibly enveloped in a horny substance and peg-like teeth tipped with tiny serrations.

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