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Oldest Jurassic Dinosaur Discovered in South Wales

The remains of possibly the oldest (known) Jurassic dinosaur discovered on a beach in the vicinity of Penarth, Wales, have been documented. The findings are published in PLOS ONE.

An artist's impression of the newly-discovered dinosaur species named Dracoraptor hanigani. Photo credits: Bob Nicholls.

An artist’s impression of the newly-discovered dinosaur species named Dracoraptor hanigani. Photo credits: Bob Nicholls.

The newly-discovered dinosaur species found in the south of Wales back in 2014 by Nick and Rob Hanigan has been named Dracoraptor hanigani. The team of researchers, led by David Martill from the University of Portsmouth, explain that it might have been the oldest dinosaur having lived in the Jurassic period.

After Martill and his team from the University of Manchester and the National Museum Wales examined the skull and bones, they concluded the remains belonged to a species that was never documented before. They coined its scientific name to allude both to the ones who discovered the fossil and the place where it was found; Dracoraptor means “dragon robber”, the dragon being Wales’ national symbol.

The bones that were recovered were not fully formed; they were at a level of fusion that suggests the animal was a juvenile. The results also show that it was a carnivore from the theropod group; it seems to be the most complete theropod, and might thus have been one of the oldest known dinosaurs of its era, in the UK or in the world.

The data interpreted by the researchers puts the Dracoraptor hanigani at the beginning of the Jurassic Period, around 201 million years ago. One of the authors, Mr. Vidovic, explains that little was previously known about dinosaur species that existed at that point in time – at the onset of diversification and the rise of the dinosaurs to becoming the dominant animals of their era. Thanks to the new study, they now have an almost complete juvenile theropod in Wales from the earliest days of the Jurassic period.

The south Wales is estimated to have been a coastal area back then as well, but with a much hotter climate. At that time, dinosaurs are thought to have just started to diversify.

Also, the T. rex is a distant relative of his. The Dracoraptor hanigani is, however, relatively smaller. Its height reached approximately 70 cm, with its length stretching to 200 cm. It had a long tail that might have contributed to its balance. It also appears to have been agile.

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