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Dinosaur family tree may be completely redrawn

Tyrannosaurus rexTyrannosaurus rexFor more than a century, dinosaurs have been classified into two basic groups. But now a group of researchers have discovered evidence that, if proved correct, could mean a fundamental redrawing of the dinosaur family tree. Their research shows that the meat-eating dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, could have been wrongly classified. Re-jigging the family tree also means re-assessing what the ancestor of all dinosaurs looked like and where it came from. It turns out that a little-known, cat-sized creature found in Scotland might be the closest to this ancestral dinosaur we know. The analysis has already sparked controversy in the world of palaeontology.

Saltopus (Nobu Tamura)Saltopus (Nobu Tamura)Until now, it was thought that the first dinosaurs emerged around 237 million years ago in the southern hemisphere. The evidence is based on fossils found in South America and Africa. However, the latest study identifies Saltopus, a small Scottish reptile (it is not certain whether Saltopus was a true dinosaur) as the closest thing to the common ancestor of all dinosaurs. It is therefore possible that the earliest dinosaurs originated in Britain about 245 million years ago.

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