An artist’s impression of ‘Dracoraptor hanigani’, the 200-million-year-old dinosaur found on a beach in Wales. © Nicholls 2015
The newly discovered, 200-million-year-old dinosaur excavated on a beach near Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan last year has been given an official name – Dracoraptor hanigani.
Dracoraptor means ‘dragon robber’, and the species name acknowledges the achievement of Nick and Rob Hanigan in discovering the amazing fossil.
The fossil can now be seen in the main hall of Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.
Also on display for the first time will be the dinosaur’s foot, which was discovered by Sam Davies from Bridgend, a palaeontology student at the University of Portsmouth.
Sam discovered two blocks, which have been prepared to reveal the amazingly well preserved foot bones, still in their original alignment.
The original find was made by the Hanigans when they were fossil hunting along the Lavernock beach in the Vale of Glamorgan after storms in spring 2014.
A cliff fall on the beach revealed several loose blocks containing part of the skeleton of a small dinosaur, including its skull, claws and serrated teeth.
The fossilised bones were found spread across five slabs of rock and although some were preserved together in the correct position, others had been scattered and separated by the actions of scavenging fish and sea-urchins.
Nick and Rob carefully prepared the specimen and contacted Cindy Howells, palaeontology curator for Amgueddfa Cymru who, with the help of dinosaur experts from University of Portsmouth and the University of Manchester, analysed the teeth and bones.
The team established that this particular dinosaur was a meat-eating dinosaur, from the theropod group, a very distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex that lived at the very beginning of the Jurassic Period (201 million years ago).
Quite possibly, that makes it the oldest Jurassic dinosaur in the world.
It was a small, slim, agile animal, probably only about 70cm tall and about 200cm long, with a long tail to help it balance.
It lived at the time when south Wales was a coastal region with a much warmer climate, and dinosaurs were just starting to diversify.
It is thought to be a juvenile animal as some of its bones were not yet fully formed.
David Anderson, Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales says: “We’re very grateful to Nick and Rob Hanigan who have been incredibly generous in donating this wonderful specimen to the collection of Amgueddfa Cymru, to preserve it for future generations.
“We are delighted to put this specimen back on display in the main hall. It proved to be very popular last year with the public and this time visitors will also be able to see another recent discovery which is the foot of the dinosaur.
“I hope people take this opportunity to find out more about this fascinating new dinosaur species which was discovered here in south Wales and dates back 200 million years”.
The significant discovery of the dinosaur is described in a paper in the online journal PLoS ONE.
The oldest Jurassic dinosaur: a basal neotheropod from the Hettangian of Great Britain is by David Martill, Steven Vidovic, Cindy Howells and John Nudds.