A surprise archaeological find has led scientists to believe that dinosaurs – who we all know are bloody old – are even more ancient than previously thought.
The newly discovered species, named Asilisaurus Kongwe or ‘ancient lizard ancestor’, is an old codger even by dinosaur standards. Asilisaurus would have roamed the earth 240 million years ago, making it 10 million years older than any other known dinosaur and almost certainly eligible for a Freedom Pass.
The new find is part of a group of proto-dinosaurs named silesaurs who had a close kinship with dinosaurs, analogous to the shared ancestry of humans and chimpanzees.
“The new evidence suggests that dinosaurs were really only one of several large and distinct groups of animals that exploded in diversity in the Triassic period, including silesaurs, pterosaurs and several groups of crocodile relatives,” claimed Dr Sterling Nesbitt.
The silesaurs were less well adapted to their environment however, lasting only 45 million years while the dinosaurs lorded it up for 165 million before facing extinction.
The find also yielded further surprises as to the behaviour of early reptiles when uncovered in Tanzania. Piecing together a near complete skeleton from various Asilisaurus remains, palaeontologists were shocked at its appearance: “It was a weird little creature,” commented Dr Randall Irmis of the Utah Museum of Natural History, “We always thought the earliest relatives were small, bipedal, carnivorous animal. These walked on all fours and had beaks and herbivore like teeth.”
With such a close connection between the two connected species Dr Irmis appeared confident that the new find shows there are also plenty more elderly dinosaurs to be found.
“Since we have one line of the tree the other branch must have existed at the same time. So this suggests that there are other very early dinosaurs that we haven’t found yet.”
With archaeologists on the look out for more elderly specimens, reports of a dig site being set up by the pier in Eastbourne are as yet unfounded.