First Dinosaur to Have Ever Walked on Earth Discovered

It was the size of a Labrador and had a 5-foot (1.52-meter) long tail, scientists reveal

By on December 5th, 2012 14:50 GMT

Study shows that an over 10-million-year old dinosaur found in Tanzania by Cambridge researchers might be the first dinosaur to have ever lived on Earth.

The small number of rib and arm bones available for study doesn't allow a clear determination of their build, life style and nourishment, Daily Mail reports.

However, researchers believe it is most likely that Nyasasaurus walked on two legs and fed on plants and insects, just like other early dinosaurs of light build did.

“We don't know if it walked on two legs or four legs but our prediction is that it's two legs and the reason is that the majority of early dinosaurs are two-legged animals,” said Dr. Paul Barrett, a dinosaur expert at the Natural History Museum in Britain.

“We don't know what it ate because we don't have any of the teeth of skull. But other early dinosaurs had a mixed diet,” he added.

Nonetheless, the bones allow Nyasasaurus' size to be approximated. It appears that the dinosaur was 6.5 to 10 feet long (1.98 to 3.04 meters), as measured from nose to tail. Its tail alone was 5 feet (1.52 meters) in length.

The bones were first discovered in 1930, in Tanzania, during a Cambridge University research mission, and have gone through a complex analysis process ever since, which resulted in scientists' supposition that the remains belonged to the oldest dinosaur ever known.

“If the newly named Nyasasaurus parringtoni is not the earliest dinosaur, then it is the closest relative found so far,” said Dr. Sterling Nesbitt, a University of Washington scientist.

The ancient reptile was thus named after Nyasa, the African lake where the fossil was found and Rex Parrington, a Cambridge University paleontologist who collected the bones in 1930 and studied them for years after that.

Nyasasaurus' remains are described in detail in a study published in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters and are currently exhibited at the National History Museum in London.

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