The Epic Discovery of the World’s Oldest Dinosaur… In a Storage Closet
by Rebecca Pahle | 11:00 am, December 5th, 2012
The oldest dinosaur in the world has been found, but paleontologists didn’t discover the fossil (y’see, because it’s really, really old and also because it’s a literal fossil… oh, shut up, I haven’t had my mocha yet) at some Jurassic Park-esque dig. Nope. It had just been squirreled away in a closet for some 50-odd years.
In the store room the Natural History Museum in London, to be exact. The remains were dug up in Tanzania in the mid-1930s and were studied for several decades before being put into storage. Recent study dates the new species, called Nyasasaurus parringtoni, at between 247 million and 235 million years old, making it between 10 and 15 million years older than the next-oldest dinosaur we know about.
As the oldest dinosaur ever known, Nyasasaurus—which walked on two legs, was about three meters in length and weighed in at around 130 pounds—serves as a “missing link” between the dinosaurs and their biological ancestors. Also, I can’t be the only one tickled by the fact that it was originally discovered by a guy named Rex Parrington. That’s awful close to Rex Harrington, there. I want a Doctor Dolittle spinoff where Rex Parrington talks to the dinosaurs. His name is Rex and he’s a paleontologist! It’s been tailor-made for you, Hollywood.
This is the second recent dino discovery—that I know of, anyway, which isn’t saying much—that has resulted from paleontologists taking a second look at remains that had just been kept in storage for several decades. The first was Pegomastax africanus, a housecat-sized mini-dinosaur. So Nyasasaurus, as the oldest and longest-neglected of the dinosaurs, is like Grampa Simpson. Pegomastax can be one of the Simpsons’ cats. And I’m going to put this Simpsons analogy on hold until some long-forgotten spikey-headed dino is discovered. But then it’s back on. Full force.