Welsh brothers discover earliest known Jurassic dinosaur

Two brothers in Wales discovered the fossil remains of the oldest know Jurassic dinosaur, which has been named "Dracoraptor hanigani", or "the dragon thief".

Alex Bourque | Jan 24, 2016

In spring 2014, brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan were combing a beach on the south coast of Wales looking for traces of the ancient marine reptile ichthyosaur. The brothers noticed severalboulders that had eroded off of a cliff, and upon closer inspection of the rock faces noticed the remains of ancient dinosaur fossils. The brothers notified the National Museum Wales in Cardiff, and after visiting the site confirmed the brothers rare and exciting finding of a new species of dinosaur.

According to theThe Christian Science Monitor, scientists have named the new dinosaur Dracoraptor hanigani. The "hanigani" is a tribute to the Hanigan brothers who made the discovery, and "draco" means dragon, and "raptor" means thief, so experts have dubbed this creature "the dragon thief". Paleontologists studying the fossils say the dragon thief lived around 200 million years ago, making it the earliest known dinosaur from the Jurassic period. With sharp, needle-like teeth with serrated edges, scientists think it is a distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Paleontologist David Martill from the University of Portsmouth describes Dracoraptor in it's announcement, saying "The animal was small, slim and agile- probably only around 70 cm tall and 200 cm long- the size of a leopard or cheetah maybe. It also had a long tail to help it balance."

Steven Vidovik, a paleontologist who studied the fossils, calls the finding the best dinosaur fossil Wales has ever had. The fossils discovered contain Dracoraptor's skull, teeth, foot bones and claws, and are now on display at the National Museum Wales. With about 40% of the skeleton discovered, it is one of the most complete dinosaur specimen in the world.

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