Palaeontologists have long wondered what the earliest dinosaur relatives would look like, with a reasonable bet being that they looked like, well, mini dinosaurs.
But new fossils have revealed that one of the earliest dinosaur relatives, the Teleocrater, actually looked more like a crocodile.
The study, published in the journal Nature, found that the Teleocrater was a seven to 10 foot long lizard-like carnivore that walked on four legs, not two.
The early dinosaur relative lived more than 245 million years ago during the Triassic Period, which pre-dates dinosaurs.
The creature’s fossils were unearthed in southern Tanzania.
The study’s co-author Sterling Nesbitt said: “The discovery of Teleocrater fundamentally changes our ideas about the earliest history of dinosaur relatives.”
He also helpfully added: “It also raises far more questions than it answers.”
The team that discovered the Teleocrater bones will head back to southern Tanzania to look for more remains and missing parts.
Co-author Michelle Stocker said: “It’s so exciting to solve puzzles like Teleocrater, where we can finally tease apart some of these tricky mixed assemblages of fossils and shed some light on broader anatomical and biogeographic trends in an iconic group of animals.”