A new species of Jurassic dinosaur – the oldest known from this period – called ‘dragon thief’ or Dracoraptor hanigani, was found in Wales in 2014.
Palaeontologists say that the ‘dragon thief’ lived at the beginning of the Jurassic period, about two hundred million years ago. Scientists now have approximately forty percent of the Dracoraptor hanigani skeleton – which is also a very distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex.
In the dinosaur’s name, “draco” comes from the national symbol of Wales – a dragon – and “raptor” (which means plunderer or thief) reflects the small, needle-sharp teeth of Dracoraptor hanigani. The “hanigani” part comes from the names of the two brothers, Nick and Rob Hanigan, who discovered the dinosaur fossils.
At the time of the discovery, the two brothers were actually looking for ichthyosaurs fossils – ancient marine reptiles – on the south coast of Wales. They came across the bones on a beach near Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan. Nick and Rob Hanigan identified them as dinosaur bones. Then, the two brothers notified the National Museum Wales in Cardiff.
Experts from the National Museum Wales in Cardiff visited the site and recovered even more Dracoraptor hanigani fossilised remains. These included: teeth, skull, claws, and foot bones. All of them are now displayed at the National Museum Wales.
Steven Vidovic, a palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth, said that the Dracoraptor hanigani fossils are the best that Wales has ever had.
A team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth, the National Museum Wales, and University of Manchester, found that the bones belonged to a young dinosaur, since some of the bones were not yet fully formed.
David Martill, a paleobiologist from the University of Portsmouth, stated that although the animal was a very distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex, it had a really small size – at a little over two feet (seventy cm) tall and six and a half feet (two hundred cm) long. Dracoraptor hanigani was also very slim and agile, according to Martill.
Previously, palaeontologists in Wales had also found some pieces of Jurassic dinosaurs. However, with the newfound Dracoraptor hanigani remains, they now have approximately forty percent of a Jurassic dinosaur skeleton – which makes it the most complete Jurassic specimen worldwide, researchers say.
The findings were published online Wednesday (Jan. 20) in the journal PLOS ONE.
Image Source: diariolibre