A trio of researchers at the University of Bristol have found evidence of an early ancestor of the giant sauropodomorphic dinosaurs, which walked upright and were probably also fast and agile. In their paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the group describes their study of Thecodontosaurus antiquus - a much smaller member of the sauropodomorphs - found at a site in the south west of England.
Sauropodomorphs have made headlines in recent years because of their enormous size. Fossils found over the last many years have shown that they were very large herbivorous sauropods. In this new effort, scientists found a fossil of one of their ancestors that lived about 20 million years earlier and was much smaller - only 30 centimeters high when it stood.
Examination of the fossil, which, the researchers note, was in good condition because it sat in a crevice that protected it from the weather, showed that it was about 200 million years old (it lived during the late Triassic), and it looked like it . a velociraptor more than the massive, columnar dinosaurs that would come later. Examination of its hind legs showed that they were made to run, not hold a lot of weight; its muscles would have contracted rapidly. More specifically, they found that grooves, peaks, insertion points, and protrusions all suggested that the creature was a rapid movement, capable of escaping predators by running faster than them. Its hip bones also suggested that the dinosaur was able to twist while running, allowing for sharp turns, which would also have helped dodge predators.
They also found that the front legs had much smaller muscles, suggesting that they were not used to walking or running and that T. antiquus walked upright. The researchers suggest that their limbs, which were equipped with hands that were able to cut limbs and stuff them into the mouth, were also quite agile. Deep grooves in the bone suggested flexibility and the ability to extend an arm to reach higher into a tree.
The researchers also suggest that the fossil provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the evolution of dinosaurs, and how dinosaurs that walked upright evolved to walk on all fours as they grew larger.
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Citation: Fossils of sauropodomorph ancestor show that it walked upright, was fast and agile (2022, January 19) retrieved January 20, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-01-fossils-sauropodomorph-ancestor-upright -quick.html
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