WASHINGTON — Back at the dawn of the dinosaur era, a quick-moving predator set the stage for the famous and fearsome giants that followed in its footsteps, according to new research.
"It was a little dinosaur, but it carried a big evolutionary stick," said Paul C. Sereno of the University of Chicago, who was a leader of the team that discovered Eodromaeus.
The 4-foot-long (1.2-meter-long) hunter lived 230 million years ago in what is now South America and appears to be the ancestor of such creatures as Tyrannosaurus rex.
"It is stunning," Sereno said of the find, reported in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
Its features, such as a balancing tail and air pockets in the skull, show it was closely related to T. rex, he said.