x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cuddly little dinosaur

The first dinosaurs may have appeared 15 million years earlier than previously thought.

Of all the creatures that have ever roamed the Earth, dinosaurs seem to hold the most fascination. Since the discovery of the first dinosaur bones in the early 19th century, they have been the stuff of popular imagination.

But just when we thought we knew everything about them, there comes a twist. This week, the journal Biology Letters reported that the first dinosaurs may have appeared 15 million years earlier than previously thought. Rather than dating back a mere 230 million years, they may have first emerged 245 million years ago, when there was a single land mass, Pangaea.

After re-examining bones discovered in Tanzania in the 1930s, University of California, Berkeley scientists say the creature, Nyasasaurus parringtoni, stood upright, was two to three metres long and weighed about 60 kilograms. It probably was not the dominant species on Earth.

This means that the granddaddy of all dinosaurs wasn't nearly as scary as its later relatives such as Tyrannosaurus rex. In fact, one report compared it, in size at least, to a Labrador retriever. That may mean its bark was worse than its bite; it certainly means we have a lot more to learn.