Before 230 Million Years Ago: Earlier Dinosaur Relatives

Cool fact on the most popular prehistoric animals: scientists have discovered a dinosaur-like creature that predates the oldest dinosaurs found to date, and a UT researcher is at the head of the finding.

The new species Asilisaurus kongwe lived 240 million years ago — 10 million years before the earliest dinosaurs yet found. The asilisaurus is part of a group, silesaurs, that shares many traits with dinosaurs, but not enough to fall within the dinosaur family. Researchers say the relationship is somewhat akin to that between humans and apes.

Sterling Nesbitt, a UT postdoc researcher in the Jackson School of Geosciences, is lead author of the paper describing the asilisaurus.

The description appears in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Nature. “Everyone loves dinosaurs,” Nesbitt says. “But this new evidence suggests that they were really only one of several large and distinct groups of animals that exploded in diversity in the Triassic, including silesaurs, pterosaurs, and several groups of crocodilian relatives.”


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