Honouring a Unique Dinosaur from Wales

By |2024-03-01T15:10:22+00:00March 1st, 2024|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Today, March 1st is officially the first day of spring in the UK. It is also St David’s Day, officially the “feast day of St David”, the patron saint of Wales. Time to celebrate a Welsh dinosaur. Back in 2016 a new taxon of theropod dinosaur was formally described. Dracoraptor hanigani, is known from a single specimen recovered from Lower Jurassic limestone strata at Lavernock Point (near to Penarth).

The exposed cliffs represent the oldest Upper Triassic deposits as well as the youngest rocks associated with the Jurassic (Hettangian faunal stage). Dracoraptor is thought to represent a basal coelophysoid. It lived over 201 million years ago. When described (Martill et al), it was identified as the geologically oldest dinosaur associated with Jurassic strata known from the UK.

Dracoraptor hanigani

Team members at Everything Dinosaur were given the chance to view the Dracoraptor hanigani fossil material. It is on display at the National Museum Cardiff (National Museum of Wales).

Dracoraptor hanigani fossils on display.
Dracoraptor hanigani fossil material on display at the National Museum Cardiff (National Museum of Wales). Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

About 40% of the skeleton is known. This carnivorous dinosaur is significant for two reasons. Firstly, dinosaur fossils from the Early Jurassic are extremely rare. Secondly, if provides important evidence on the evolution of the Theropoda. Dracoraptor lived at a time when meat-eating dinosaurs were evolving into the different types of theropod dinosaur found in geologically younger strata.

An Early Example of a Neotheropod

It is an early member of the Neotheropoda clade. These theropods are more derived than the majority of Triassic theropods. The Neotheropoda are the only group of theropods to survive the end-Triassic extinction event. These dinosaurs were to subsequently diversify and evolve into the myriad of theropods that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous. It is this group of theropods that ultimately gave rise to the birds (Aves).

Dracoraptor hanigani a life-size reconstruction.
A life size reconstruction of the Welsh theropod dinosaur Dracoraptor hanigani. This dinosaur is on display at the National Museum Cardiff. Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

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