News / Science & Technology

Scientists Discover Earliest Known Dinosaur Relative

A life reconstruction of Asilisaurus kongwe, a close dinosaur relative, from the Middle Triassic of Africa.
A life reconstruction of Asilisaurus kongwe, a close dinosaur relative, from the Middle Triassic of Africa.

Scientists have announced the discovery a relative of dinosaurs that lived ten million years earlier than the oldest known dinosaurs.  Paleontologists say the creature will improve their understanding of prehistoric animals. 

The fossils of Asilisaurus kongwe were recovered by paleontologists in a large bone bed in Tanzania in 2003.  

The creature, which shared many characteristics of dinosaurs but lacked many key features, lived 240-million years ago in the middle Triassic period before any known dinosaur.  The earliest dinosaur fossils date back 230-million years.

Scientists say Asilisaurus was approximately the size of a dog, about one to three meters long weighing ten to thirty kilograms.  It also walked on four legs.
 
Sterling Nesbitt, a geoscientist at the University of Texas in Austin, led the team of excavators.  Nesbitt says Asilisaurus ate a variety of plants and some meat. "They have adaptations that suggest it ate plants in the mouth, such as these peg-like teeth and a very short little beak on the lower jaw," he explained.

Paleontologists unearthed the bones of at least fourteen mostly young Asilisaurs that all died at the same time, and scientists had enough fossils to assemble a nearly complete animal.
 
Experts say the existence of Asilisaurus ten million years before the earliest known dinosaurs suggests dinosaurs had already begun to diverge from common ancestors into separate lineages 240 million ago.
 
Nesbitt says several distinct groups of dinosaurs sprung from Asilisaurus, including plant-eating silesaurs, flying dinosaurs known as pterosaurs and several groups of ancient crocodile relatives, some of which were also found in the bone bed along with Asilisauris.

The relationship between Asilisaurus and the dinosaurs, according to Nesbitt, is similar to the relationship of chimps to humans. "To find something that's one of the closest relatives to dinosaurs really helps our understanding of the divergence of dinosaur-like animals and even dinosaurian," he said.

An article describing Asilisaurus kongwe is published this week in journal Nature.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid