Yahoo! News, Canada
Tue, 04 Dec 2012 00:00 CST
© Natural History Museum, London / Mark Witton
An artist's illustration of a Nyasasaurus from the middle Triassic of Tanzania.
A wonky beast about the size of a Labrador retriever with a long neck and lengthy tail may be the world's earliest known dinosaur, say researchers who analyzed fossilized bones discovered in Tanzania in the 1930s.
Now named Nyasasaurus parringtoni
, the dinosaur would've walked a different Earth from today. It lived between 240 million and 245 million years ago when the planet's continents were still stitched together to form the landmass Pangaea
. Tanzania would've been part of the southern end of Pangaea that also included Africa, South America, Antarctica and Australia.
It likely stood upright, measuring 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) in length, 3 feet (1 m) at the hip, and may have weighed between 45 and 135 pounds (20 to 60 kilograms).
"If the newly named Nyasasaurus parringtoni
is not the earliest dinosaur, then it is the closest relative found so far," said lead researcher Sterling Nesbitt, a postdoctoral biology researcher at the University of Washington.
The findings, detailed online Dec. 5 in the journal Biology Letters
, push the dinosaur lineage
back 10 million to 15 million years than previously known, all the way into the Middle Triassic, which lasted from about 245 million to 228 million years ago.