A Dragon Robber with a missing foot: Brothers discover UK's oldest Jurassic dinosaur on Welsh beach

By Sophie Beckwith | 21 January 2016

Two brothers have found 40 percent of the skeleton of the rare and exciting 200 million-year-old “dragon robber” dinosaur on a beach in the Vale of Glamorgan

A photo of a dinosaur bone
The leg of the Dracoraptor was found in a block of stone© National Museum of Wales
A dinosaur known as the Welsh Dragon that was found on a beach near Penarth has been reunited with one of its missing feet and named in honour of the fossil hunters who unearthed it.

Found after the spring storms of 2014 and donated to the National Museum of Wales, the dinosaur remains went on display during the summer of 2015, but the Dracoraptor hanigani had no name or feet until now.

A photo of two men searching for fossils on a beach
Collectors Nick and Rob Hanigan© National Museum of Wales
The theropod dinosaur was discovered by brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan while they were hunting for fossils in rock fall along Lavernock beach. Sam Davies, a palaeontology student, found a dinosaur foot nearby, later confirmed to be from the same individual.

Dracoraptor, meaning “dragon robber”, takes its name from draco or dragon - one of the Welsh national symbols - and hanigani, in honour of its sibling finders. The newly named dinosaur is going back on display in Cardiff, allowing the public to see its well-preserved foot alongside the rest of its skeleton for the first time.

A photo of a large dark grey and light brown dinosaur tooth on rock
The tooth has serrated edges© National Museum of Wales
A recently-published study on the open access resource PLOS ONE describes the new specimen as the oldest Jurassic dinosaur. Only fragmented remains of theropods have previously been found at sites in the UK, France and Belgium.

The fossils recovered included the foot and skull bones, ribs, claws and serrated teeth. Dinosaur experts have spent the past 18 months studying and preserving the finds, carrying out x-rays, CT scans and repairing small broken bones with superglue.

A photo of an illustration of a dinosaur on a rock
The dinosaur lived at the start of the Jurassic period© National Museum of Wales
One of the first theropods to be discovered in Wales, the dinosaur is described as a carnivorous, distant cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex. Slim and agile, it lived at the very beginning of the Jurassic period when coastal Wales was much warmer than today, standing 70cm tall and 200cm long with a long tail for balance.

“It proved to be very popular with the public last year and this time visitors will also be able to see another recent discovery, which is the foot,” said David Anderson, the Director-General of the museum group.

"I hope people take the opportunity to find out more about this fascinating new dinosaur species, which was discovered here in south Wales and dates back 200 million years.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three museums to discover dinosaurs in

National Museum Cardiff
Take an amazing journey in Evolution of Wales from the very beginning of time to the present day. The story begins in space with the Big Bang and takes you on a 4,600 million-year journey, bringing you face to face with dinosaurs and woolly mammoths. Find out how life evolved in Wales and which dinosaurs roamed the land.

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
Finds featured in the current Fossil Hunters exhibition include tetrapods (four-legged land vertebrates), fish, plants and land invertebrates, some of which were found as recently as summer 2015. Until August 14 2016.

Great North Museum Hancock, Newcastle
Discover the Earth's past through its fossil record and find out how amazing some of these creatures were in the permanent Fossil Stories exhibition.
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