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Researchers discover what could be the earliest known dinosaur

Published on Dec 5, 2012 9:17 AM
 
Artist rendering shows Nyasasaurus parringtoni, either the earliest dinosaur or the closest dinosaur relative yet discovered in this image released to Reuters on Dec 4, 2012. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Researchers have found what could be the earliest known dinosaur to walk the Earth lurking in the corridors of London's Natural History Museum.

A mysterious fossil specimen that has been in the museum's collection for decades has now been identified as most likely coming from a dinosaur that lived about 245 million years ago - 10 to 15 million years earlier than any previously discovered examples.

The creature was about the size of a Labrador dog and has been named Nyasasaurus parringtoni after southern Africa's Lake Nyasa, today called Lake Malawi, and Cambridge University's Rex Parrington, who collected the specimen at a site near the lake in the 1930s.

"It was a case of looking at the material with a fresh pair of eyes," Paul Barrett from the Natural History Museum, who worked on the study, told Reuters. "This closes a gap in the fossil record and pushes back the existence of dinosaurs." The London fossil was studied by researchers in the 1950s but no conclusion was reached and nothing was published, said Barrett. "It was a mystery what it was ... It just became this mythical animal."

 
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