A fossil uncovered in Africa over 70 years ago has led to modern researchers identifying what was likely the earliest dinosaur, Nyasasaurus parringtoni. In the 1930s, Rex Carringon, a fossil hunter from Cambridge, first made the find in southern Tanzania. It wasn't until 1975 that one of his students mentioned the fossil in his dissertation. But the significance of the fossilized remains was not discovered until University of Washington paleontologist Sterling Nesbitt and Sarah Werning of UC Berkeley led a research team that searched for them and other specimens, which sat in drawers at London's Natural History Museum for many years. The team discovered additional bones to support their research at the South African Museum.
Nyasasaurus parringtoni is thought to have lived 245 million years ago, at least 10 to 15 million years earlier than any other known dinosaur. The creature was roughly the size of a Labrador retriever with a tail that was about five feet long.
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(Image Credit: Mark Witton, Natural History Museum)
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