Recently, paleontologists fromYale University unearthed remains that appear to belong to one of the oldest dinosaurs known to earth. The most intriguing feature of the fossil is its size. Contrary to common belief, the ancestors of the dinosaurs would have been much more small compared to their descendants. While the discovery answers questions, it also raises questions.
Analyzes of the bones reveal that they belong to a species of Triassic era, very close to the sauropod, which is the oldest known species of dinosaur. Surprisingly, the fossil of the animal was found only in a specific area of the globe when in the past there was only one continent and therefore no geographical barrier.
The discovery was made on the formation Pebbly Arkose (a geological area of the Upper Triassic) in northern Zimbabwe. Christopher Griffin, a vertebrate paleontologist at Yale University, is one of the study’s authors.
Early Dinosaurs Didn’t Look Like Newer Ones
Paleontologists have named the remains Mbiresaurus raathi, in tribute to a scientist who contributed a lot to the discovery. Analyzes reveal that the bones belong to a species of long-necked herbivore, like Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus. Strangely tiny, the animal measures about 2 meters in height. For comparison, the massive Patagotitan was 37 meters tall.
Other estimates show that Mbiresaurus raathi lived about 252 to 201 million years ago, along the banks of an ancient river that would become Zimbabwe. In addition, excavations have also unearthed many protomammals known as cynodontsas well as strange beaked crocodilian reptiles called rhynchosaurs.
This would be concrete proof that the animals of the current era are directly descended from the time of the dinosaurs.
“The first dinosaurs were small, far from the giants we usually think of. »
Christian Kammerer, research curator of paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Some species are only found in specific regions
During the Triassic period, there was only one supercontinent called “Pangea”. And so many now remote areas had similar flora and fauna. However, species like Mbiresaurus raathi were located only in typical areas.
The most logical answer given by researchers involves climatic influence. According to their theory, weather conditions would be the basis of animal distribution. While some species tolerate cold temperatures, others prefer warm or temperate climates.
“You might think crossing a supercontinent would be easy, but it seems not. »
Steve Brusatte, paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland