Croc-like dinosaur cousin excites scientists

An artists impression of the Teleocrater (Natural History Museum, London)
An artists impression of the Teleocrater (Natural History Museum, London)

A new discovery may change the way palaeontologists look at dinosaur evolution.

A report released by Nature shows that the teleocrater is believed to be the earliest-known dinosaur relative and was six feet long and had features like a crocodile.

Scientists believe the teleocrater was around even before dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs belonged to a group called archosaurs which over time split into two groups, one group made up of dinosaurs, birds and flying reptiles, the other group was called crocodilians, made up of crocodiles and alligators.

Despite that, teleocraters are believed to have been part of the dino family instead of the crocodilian family, creating a link to being a relative of the ancient species.

Report co-author Ken Angielczyk says it could change the way scientists look at dinosaur history.

"Teleocrater has unexpectedly crocodile-like features that are causing us to completely reassess what we thought about the earliest stages of dinosaur evolution," he says.

"Surprisingly, early dinosaur relatives were pretty profoundly not dinosaur-like."

The report shows that to the untrained eye, it could be seen as just another species of dinosaur.

However the report shows the teleocrater was long and short like a crocodile and had characteristics that were identical such as the ability to rotate joints from side to side.

Mr Angielczyk says scientist don't usually use the term "missing link" but that is what the teleocrater could be.

"[It could be] a missing link between dinosaurs and the common ancestor they share with crocodiles."