Millions of years before birds graced the skies, mysterious creatures with bird-like feet traversed the landscapes of southern Africa. New research dives into the study of these footprints, casts, and sketches from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods found in Lesotho.
The study has uncovered tracks dating back more than 210 million years—60 million years ahead of the earliest known bird ancestors. These mysterious creatures have essentially challenged the entire human understanding of of avian evolution. Let’s look closer.
Unearthing Clues From Ancient Footprints
In a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists re-analyzed 163 footprints attributed to a genus known as Trisauropodiscus. These tracks, dating to a time long before birds emerged, presented an intriguing puzzle for researchers because the footprints predate fossils from the most ancient of their ancestors by roughly 60 million years.
The findings could reshape our understanding of bird evolution, suggesting the possibility that bird-like feet might have evolved independently in creatures predating the earliest birds. The tracks, exhibiting bird-like characteristics with widely splayed outer digits and slender toes, hint at a never-seen-before chapter in the evolutionary story.
Unanswered Questions and Puzzling Creatures
Despite the wealth of footprints the identity of the creature responsible for these tracks remains elusive. While researchers suspect a dinosaur connection due to the fossils’ age, Trisauropodiscus remains a source of debate among palaeontologists for now, with unanswered questions about this species’ diversity and its relationship—if any—to modern birds.
In short, these enigmatic tracks from 210 million years ago continue to perplex researchers, emphasizing the complexity of piecing together the ancient puzzle through the lens of fossilized footprints.
Researchers in Argentina found an armored two-legged dinosaur. Yes, you read that right. A dinosaur with only two legs! It’s believed to be one of its kind, and something like this has never been seen before anywhere in the world. Over the years, researchers have become masters of general understanding of the structure and size of types of dinosaurs, and therefore, this discovery has come as a surprise to them.
The New Dinosaur
The newly discovered dinosaur is named Jakapil Kaniukura. Based on the fossils discovered, the dinosaur is thought to be smaller than the normal dinosaur standard. It was a herbivore with teeth fashioned like leaves and existed between 94-97 million years ago. The discovery, published in Scientific Reports, added that the creature was bipedal and had a narrow beak capable of eating through hard, woody materials. Reports suggest that Jakapil existed during the last period of dinosaur rule, known as the Cretaceous period. This discovery implies that there was a whole lineage of armored dinosaurs, unknown to science, that existed in South America.
The Name’s Meaning
In the northern Tehuelche language of Argentina, Jakapil Kaniukura is described as ‘the shield bearer’, which also means ‘humble yet hardy’. The word Kanikura is derived from words that indicate crest and stone in the native Mapudungun language. It’s believed that the recently discovered dinosaur had all these characteristics and therefore was named Jakapil Kaniukara. The fossils that researchers found show an almost intact lower jaw, neck, back, and tail vertebrae. The legs, arm bones, and some spikes that are usually present in the neck and down to the spine in animals were also found. It was also noted that the discovery showed that early thyreophorans had a much broader geographic distribution than previously thought.