The dinosaur, described in the latest Royal Society Biology Letters, was unearthed near present-day Lake Nyasa in Tanzania. It is named Nyasasaurus parringtoni, which combines the name Nyasa with the term for lizard. The name also honors Rex Parrington, a University of Cambridge paleontologist who first discovered the fossils.
Nyasasaurus walked the Earth about 10 million years before the current oldest dinosaur record holders — such as swift-footed Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus — suggesting that dinosaurs emerged in the Middle Triassic rather than in the latter years of that period. It also suggests that dinosaurs began as relatively small before some species grew to larger sizes.
“From the few preserved bones, we estimate Nyasasaurus to be about 10 feet long with a long neck,” lead author Sterling Nesbitt, a University of Washington postdoctoral researcher in biology, told Discovery News. “These estimates are based on comparing the bones of Nyasasaurus to those of early dinosaurs and close relatives.”