10 Oldest Dinosaurs Ever Discovered in the World

Of all the ancient animals that have roamed the Earth, dinosaurs are probably the most popular. They have captivated people’s imaginations ever since they were first discovered in the early 1800s. People love dinosaurs so much, that they are the stars of several books, movies, games, and other popular media. While fictional stories of dinosaurs may be easy to write, cataloging their actual history is much more difficult.

Although several dinosaur fossils have been discovered in the last 200 years, they paint an incomplete picture. What we do know is that the first true dinosaurs emerged sometime in the later part of the middle Triassic period. It is believed that they evolved within a single lineage of archosaurs, whose living descendants are birds and crocodilians (true crocodiles, alligators, and caimans).

The ages of the dinosaurs on this list are only an estimate and while it may seem like they all lived at the same time, this is probably not the case. Due to a concept called time-averaging, these dinosaurs were most likely separated by long time spans.

10. Alwalkeria maleriensis

Age: 228 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  India
Diet:  Omnivore

Alwalkeria maleriensisphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Alwalkeria maleriensis was an early saurischian (“reptile hipped”) dinosaur found in what is now modern-day India. Not much is known about Alwalkeria and when it was first discovered, it was considered a primitive theropod. This has been disputed and general scientific consensus is that Alwalkeria is one of the first saurischian dinosaurs.

Alwalkeria was initially called Walkeria maleriensis in 1987 in honor of British paleontologist Alick Walker. Its name was changed in 1994 to avoid confusion with a different species of animal. There is currently only one known specimen — it is incomplete and mostly consists of a partial skull, 28 assorted vertebrae, the front ends of the upper and lower jaw, most of a femur, and an astragalus (ankle bone).

It is estimated that Alwalkeria was tiny and at most may have been about 50 cm (1.6 ft) long and weighed 2 kg (4.4 lbs).

9. Eoraptor

Age: 231 – 228 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  Northwestern Argentina
Diet:  Omnivore

Eoraptorphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although it is further down on this list, Eoraptor was widely considered to be the oldest known dinosaur until more recent discoveries. The first Eoraptor fossils were discovered in 1991 and since then, several near complete and well-preserved specimens have been uncovered.

Eoraptor‘s status as one of the very first dinosaurs has made it difficult to classify. It lacks the specialized features of the main groups of later dinosaurs and shares characteristics with several different groups.

One of Eoraptor‘s most distinct features is that it had both carnivorous and herbivorous teeth. It has been suggested that Eoraptor was able to adapt to the availability of different food and prey. A more recent study from 2011 has confidently classified Eoraptor as a very early theropod.

8. Eodromaeus

Age: 231.4 – 229 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  Argentina
Diet:  Carnivore

Eodromaeusphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although Eodromaeus was first discovered in 1996, it was not named and described until 2011. It was initially believed to be a new species of Eoraptor, another early dinosaur. However, after further research, it was determined that Eodromaeus was a new dinosaur. Its discovery has added to the diversity of the first dinosaurs and may provide new insights into dinosaurs’ early history.

Eodromaeus was relatively small, with a total length of about 1.2 meters (3.9 ft) from nose to tail, and a weight of about 5 kilograms (11 lb). It was carnivorous and is considered one of the first members of

the theropod dinosaur group, which was one of the earliest-known groups of carnivores that eventually led to the T.Rex. According to some researchers, Eodromaeus may be closely related to the yet-to-be-discovered “Eve” or mother of dinosaurs.

7. Panphagia

Age: 231 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  Northwestern Argentina
Diet:  Unknown, but speculated to be an Omnivore

Panphagiaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Panphagia is a more recent find, it was first discovered in 2006 by the Argentinean paleontologist Ricardo N. Martinez. It was discovered in the Ischigualasto Formation of the Ischigualasto Provincial Park in Argentina. Several other dinosaurs have also been discovered in this area. Panphagia is considered a primitive sauropodomorph and is similar to Saturnalia, another early sauropodomorph.

There is currently only one Panphagia specimen that consists of a partial skull, vertebrae, pectoral girdle, pelvic girdle, and hindlimb bones. The teeth of Panphagia suggest that it may have been an omnivore, but no one knows for sure. Its name even means “all eater” and Panphagia is derived from the Greek “pan” meaning all and “phagein” meaning to eat/eater.

6. Sanjuansaurus

Age: 231.4 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  Northwestern Argentina
Diet:  Carnivore

Sanjuansaurusphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Sanjuansaurus was an early Herrasaurid dinosaur that was closely related to Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis, which is also on this list. It was discovered in the Ischigualasto Formation in San Juan, Argentina in 1994. Sanjuansaurus was named after where it was found by Oscar Alcober and Ricardo Martinez in 2010.

The holotype (first specimen discovered for a new dinosaur) specimen is mostly incomplete and consists of the vertebral column, both shoulder blades, a forearm bone (ulna), a partial pelvis, some leg bones, a jaw fragment, and other small parts. Sanjuansaurus was about the same size as a medium Herrerasaurus — which could get quite large, about 6 meters (20 ft) in total length and 350 kg (770 lb).

In addition to being closely related to Herrerasaurus, the hip bones and tibia of Sanjuansaurus are similar to Staurikosaurus.

5. Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis

Age: 231.4 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  Northwestern Argentina
Diet:  Carnivore

Herrerasaurusphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Like many of the dinosaurs on this list, Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis was a member of a larger group of dinosaurs called Herrerasaurids. They were some of the first true dinosaurs. Herrerasaurus was first discovered in 1959 and for the next few decades, only fragmented fossils were uncovered. This made it difficult to classify and scientists were unsure if it was an early theropod or early sauropodomorph.

In 1998, an almost complete specimen was discovered and for now, Herrerasaurus is believed to be the most primitive member of Theropoda, which are the direct ancestors of modern-day birds.

Compared to other early dinosaurs, Herrerasaurus was quite large – some of the larger specimens were about 6 meters (20 ft) in total length and 350 kg (770 lb) in weight. Due to its early position on the dinosaur evolutionary tree, Herrerasurus has characteristics that differ from later dinosaurs, particularly the shape of its hip and leg bones.

4. Saturnalia tupiniquim

Age: 233.23 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  Brazil and Zimbabwe
Diet:  Carnivore

Saturnalia tupiniquimphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Saturnalia tupiniquim was a primitive dinosaur who has a mixture of sauropod and theropod features. This has made it difficult to classify, but scientists now consider it a member of the root lineage of sauropodomorph, rather than a true member of the group. Unlike its famous, giant, herbivorous descendants – such as Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Diplodocus – Saturnalia was small (about 1.5 meters (5 ft) long)) and carnivorous.

Although Saturnalia was quite different from the true sauropods that came after, its body form is similar to these later dinosaurs. Saturnalia had a longer neck than other early dinosaurs, which is one of the defining features of sauropods. Most of the specimens were found the Santa Maria Formation of Paleorrota Geopark in Brazil, but a partial femur was discovered in Zimbabwe. This provides evidence that South America and Africa were once connected.

3. Staurikosaurus

Age: 233.23 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  Brazil
Diet:  Carnivore

Staurikosaurusphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Staurikosaurus was another genus of Herrerasaurid dinosaurs, which are some of the very first true dinosaurs ever found. This dinosaur is about 233.23 million years old and was comes from what is now  the Santa Maria Formation of Paleorrota Geopark in Brazil.

Compared to a human, Staurikosaurus was very small, about 2.25 metres (7.4 ft) long, 80 centimetres (31 in) tall, and weighing 30 kilograms (66 lb). Most of the Staurikosaurus specimens are incomplete, mostly pieces of its spine, legs, and lower jaw exist. However, researchers have been able to reconstruct Staurikosaurus because it was a primitive and un-specialized dinosaur. Since scientists have a complete picture of its legs, they believe that Staurikosaurus was a quick runner for its size and an active predator.

2. Chindesaurus

Age: 235 – 210 million years
Temporal Range:  Late Triassic
Location:  Southwestern United States
Diet:  Carnivore

Chindesaurusphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Chindesaurus is one of the oldest known dinosaurs, dating back to about 235 – 210 million years ago. It is part of a group of dinosaurs known as Herrerasaurids, which are some of the earliest dinosaurs ever discovered. Like other early dinosaurs, Chindesaurus was relatively small (2 to 2.3 m (6.6 to 7.5 ft) long)), bipedal, and carnivorous.

This dinosaur was discovered in 1984 in the Southwestern United States. The very first specimen was nicknamed “Gertie” after Gertie the Dinosaur (the very first cartoon dinosaur character). There are about six incomplete Chindesaurus specimens. Its name, Chindesaurus, means “ghost lizard” or “Lizard from Chinde Point”, from the Navajo word chindi meaning “ghost” or “evil spirt” and the Greek word “saurus” meaning lizard.

1. Nyasasaurus parringtoni

Age: about 243 million years
Temporal Range:  Middle Triassic
Location:  Tanzania
Diet:  Unknown

Nyasasaurus parringtoniphoto source: Smithsonian.com

Nyasasaurus parringtoni is currently the oldest known dinosaur in the world. An upper arm bone and some back bones from Nyasasaurus were first uncovered in Tanzania in the 1930s, but the fossils were not studied closely until recently. Around 2012, scientists announced that Nyasasaurus was about 243 million years old, about 10 to 15 million years older than the previous oldest known dinosaur.

Scientists say that Nyasasaurus is either the earliest known dinosaur or the closest known relative to the first true dinosaurs.

Due to the small collection of fossils, not much is known about Nyasasaurus. Based on the bones, scientists estimate that it was 6.5 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) long, including its tail. Scientists also believe that Nyasasaurus may have been bipedal.

Since a skull has not yet been discovered, no one knows what the animal ate. They do know that Nyasasaurus had a bony crest on its upper arm bone called a deltopectoral crest, which definitely makes it a dinosaur (all dinosaurs have this crest).


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