Oldest evidence of dinosaur-like creatures discovered in Poland

by Anonymous on Oct. 07th, 2010

A trail of fossil footprints discovered in central Poland are the earliest known evidence of dinosaur traits to appear in the early Mesozoic era. Made by a small, cat-sized creature that walked on all fours, the tracks date back to just one to two millions after the mass extinction that marked the end of the Permian period and the beginning of the Triassic period 252 million years ago. The footprints contain several traits linking it to dinosaurs, including feet with reduced first and fifth toes; prominent and evenly aligned middle toes; and straight and simply hinged ankle configurations. Led by Steve Bussette from the American Museum of Natural History, the research appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Although not quite yet dinosaurs per se, the creatures that made the tracks were more closely related to them than they were to other archosaurs such as pterosaurs and crocodiles. It's not clear how the archosaurs survived the Permian extinction since most sea creatures and more than 70 per cent of terrestrial species were wiped off the face of the Earth. But whatever the case, dinosaurian traits evolved soon after the "Great Dying", and rose up in a landscape primed for the Age of Dinosaurs.

AMNH press release
Smithsonian.com story

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