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Temporal range: Middle Triassic, 245 Ma
Asilisaurus kongwe.jpg
Reconstructed skeleton in a bipedal stance
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dracohors
Clade: Silesauridae
Genus: Asilisaurus
Nesbitt et al., 2010
A. kongwe
Binomial name
Asilisaurus kongwe
Nesbitt et al., 2010

Asilisaurus (/ɑːˌslˈsɔːrəs/ ah-SEE-lee-SOR-əs; from Swahili, asili ("ancestor" or "foundation"), and Greek, σαυρος (sauros, "lizard") is an extinct genus of silesaurid archosaur. It is one of the oldest known animals on the dinosaur/pterosaur side of the archosaurian tree (the Avemetatarsalia), dating to about 245 million years ago.[1]

Restoration in a quadrupedal stance

Fossils were uncovered in Tanzania and date back to the Anisian stage of the Middle Triassic. It was described in 2010 by a team of researchers from the United States, Germany, and South Africa, in the journal Nature; the type species is A. kongwe. It is the first example of an avian-line radiation during the Anisian, with the diversification of archosaurs during this time previously only documented from crocodylian-line archosaurs.[1] It was the first non-dinosaurian dinosauriform recovered from Africa.[2]

Asilisaurus measured from 1 to 3 metres (3 to 10 ft) long and 0.5 to 1 metre (2 to 3 ft) high at the hip, and weighed 10 to 30 kilograms (20 to 70 lb).[2]

Femora assigned to Asilisaurus exhibit both slender and robust morphologies. Among other avian-line archosaurs, this variation has traditionally been interpreted as sexual dimorphism. A 2016 analysis of the growth trajectories of Asilisaurus, based on hundreds of long bones assigned to the genus, found that the development of muscle scars exhibited multiple polymorphic trajectories; this suggests that the exhibited variation among Asilisaurus and other avian-line archosaurs is better characterized as having been caused by individual variation rather than sex-dependent differences.[3]


  1. ^ a b Nesbitt, S.J.; Sidor, C.A.; Irmis, R.B.; Angielczyk, K.D.; Smith, R.M.H.; Tsuji, L.A. (2010). "Ecologically distinct dinosaurian sister group shows early diversification of Ornithodira". Nature. 464 (7285): 95–98. doi:10.1038/nature08718. PMID 20203608.
  2. ^ a b "Oldest known dinosaur relative discovered". ScienceDaily. March 3, 2010. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  3. ^ Griffin, C. T.; Nesbitt, Sterling J. (2016-03-04). "The femoral ontogeny and long bone histology of the Middle Triassic (?late Anisian) dinosauriform Asilisaurus kongwe and implications for the growth of early dinosaurs". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 36 (3): e1111224. doi:10.1080/02724634.2016.1111224. ISSN 0272-4634.

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