Nyasasaurus To See You

Nyasasaurus parrintoni
Nyasasaurus parrintoni. Credit: Natural History Museum, London / Mark Witton

New words emerge when new concepts or objects come along. Well, not always. A brand new word in the natural history lexicon pertains to one of the oldest things on earth.

Researchers have identified what could have been the first dinosaur to walk on earth. Its full biological name is Nyasasaurus parringtoni, though of course it is taking its place in the dinosaur pantheon as Nyasasaurus.

It has a great history, aside from being 245m years old. The fossil used to identify it was found in South Africa in 1930 and had been a mystery until researchers linked it to some samples in Cape Town.

It is called Nyasasaurus because it was found next to Lake Nyasa. It’s a shame that it was decided not to name the creature after the lake as it is called today, as Malawiasaurus has a nice ring to it.

But in years to come, when children are learning about dinosaurs and are being told about those that came at the start of the evolutionary chain, it will be interesting to look back on the moment that Nyasasaurus took its first steps towards becoming as well known as the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Even though it came chronologically first.