Oldest Jurassic Dinosaur 'Dragon Thief' Discovered In Welsh Cliffs

Posted: Jan 22 2016, 3:31pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


Oldest Jurassic Dinosaur 'Dragon Thief' Discovered in Welsh Cliffs
Credit: National Museum of Wales

Dragon Thief, also called Dracoraptor, lived more than 200 million years ago at the very beginning of the Jurassic Period.

The very earliest dinosaur from the Jurassic Period was recovered from a sea cliff in Wales a couple of years ago and now it has been officially named Dracoraptor which means ‘dragon thief.’

Dracoraptor lived at the very beginning of the Jurassic Period, almost 200 million years ago and was the distant relative of later larger carnivores like Tyrannosaurus rex, Allosaurus and Spinosaurus.

The fossil remains of Dracoraptor include skull, claws, teeth and foot bones and it was just 2 feet tall and 6 feet long, indicating the dinosaur was a juvenile.

“This animal was small, slim and agile – probably only around 70 cm tall and 200 cm long – the size of a leopard or a cheetah maybe. It also had a long tail to help it balance.” Dr. Dave Martil, a paleontologist from University of Portsmouth and lead author of the study said

So where does the name dragon thief come from? Scientists explain.

“The draco part of the name seemed fitting because the fossils were found in Wales and will be displayed in Wales, reflecting the red dragon of the Welsh flag,” said Martil.

“Dracoraptor was a meat-eating dinosaur that would have used its small needle-sharp teeth with steak-knife serrations to pinch bits of meat here and there, hence the part of its name meaning thief."

Two amateur paleontologist brothers Rob and Nick Hanigan discovered the fossilized bones of Dracoraptor in 2014 spreading across the slabs of rock on a beach in Whales.

The two-legged dinosaur was the member of a diverse group of dinosaurs called Theropod which was extremely rare in Early Jurassic or Late Triassic. At the end of Triassic Period, roughly half of the species on the Earth went extinct due to an uncertain prehistoric catastrophe, causing dinosaurs to thrive in the world.  Dracoraptor is possibly the oldest known Jurassic dinosaur in England or even in the world. 

The discovery of Dracoraptor will provide more insight into the evolution of theropod dinosaurs. 

“The Triassic-Jurassic extinction event is often credited for the later success of dinosaurs through the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but previously we knew very little about dinosaurs at the start of this diversification and rise to dominance,” said co-author Vidovic. “Now we have Dracoraptor, a relatively complete two meter long juvenile theropod from the very earliest days of the Jurassic in Wales."

The study was published in journal PLOS One.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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