Fred Flintstone may not have been real but his pet Dino WAS - boffins
'Labrador sized' oldest 'saur ever discovered
Scientists believe they have found the world's oldest dinosaur after fully analysing a fossil unearthed 80 years ago.
The ten-foot-long dorky-looking Nyasasaurus parringtoni scuttled over the Earth 10 to 15 million years earlier than the previously oldest known dinosaurs, palaeontologists claimed in an article published in the journal Biology Letters.
Analysis of the 243-million-year-old fossil also reveals interesting facts about what makes a dinosaur.
Artist's impression of the "dog" sized Nyasasaurus parringtoni (Credit: Natural History Museum/Mark Witton)
After analysing the seven bones that remain of the dinosaur - one upper arm bone and six vertebrae - the boffins hypothesised that the dino walked upright, was approximately 3ft high at the hip, and had a body the same size as a labrador.
The bones confirmed existing theories about the nature of dinosaurs: for instance, the bone tissue, woven haphazardly rather than laid down in an organised way, suggests rapid growth, a key characteristic among dinosaurs.
"We can tell from the bone tissues that Nyasasaurus had a lot of bone cells and blood vessels," said Sarah Werning of the University of California, Berkeley, who co-wrote the article and carried out the bone analysis. "In living animals, we only see this many bone cells and blood vessels in animals that grow quickly, like some mammals or birds."
The find also suggests that dinosaurs were not the dominant vertebrate group during their early evolution. And it helps explain how they diversified from archosaurs - the predominant land animals in the Mid Triassic period that included dinosaurs and the ancestors of today's crocodiles.
Little Nyasasaurus was found near present-day Lake Nyasa in Tanzania in the 1930s by Francis Rex Parrington of Cambridge University. It is named after him and the lake.
The oldest dinosaur? A Middle Triassic dinosauriform from Tanzania was published online today in Biology Letters, a journal of the UK's Royal Society. ®
A bit of a stretch..
one upper arm bone and six vertebrae
...and from this they worked out the total morphology? Good effort. Bit skeptical myself.
Re: A bit of a stretch..
Size is pretty easy, really. There isn't that much variation in the number of vertebrae in particular body regions amongst *all* terrestrial vertebrates, especially within a phylum, so the basic shape and size of any vertebrae that you find gives a pretty good indication of the overal size of the main body of the fossil critter. Neck and tail tend to be in proportion to the main body, so you can make a good guesstimate there as well.
The upper arm bone tells you about articulation of the upper limb, so you can generally determine whether the fossil critter was four- or two-legged. Pelvis is better, but upper arm bone works, as the physics of locomotion are pretty fixed and unforgiving.
So size and locomotion can be inferred from just a couple of bones, within reason. The artists' impression is...just that..
What's all this nonsense about "ten-foot-long" and "3ft high"? Hmm? How about 3 metres long and one metre high. Go sit on the naughty step and think very carefully about what you've done.