Meet Dracoraptor, the 200 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Just Discovered in Wales


An artist's rendering of what a live Dracoraptor hanigani may have looked like. Bob Nicholls
An artist's rendering of what a live Dracoraptor hanigani may have looked like. Bob Nicholls

To the list of famous names coming out of Wales — Catherin Zeta-Jones, Gruff Rhys, Anthony Hopkins, Rhys Ifans and all the others — you can now add another multisyllabic mouthful: Dracoraptor hanigani.

Fossils found on a southern Welsh beach in 2014 have been identified as belonging to a new species of carnivorous dinosaur, as reported in the journal PLOS ONE. The fossils were found after a mud and limestone cliff partially collapsed, and were discovered in March 2014. Dating back to the early Jurassic Period, the fossils suggest the dinosaur lived around 201 million years ago.

The Dracoraptor fossils were discovered in limestone cliffs on a Welsh beach.
The Dracoraptor fossils were discovered in limestone cliffs on a Welsh beach.
PLOS ONE

A distant relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex and other meat-eating theropods, the Dracoraptor was a nimbler, smaller hunter. The journal article, written by David M. Martill of the U.K.'s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Portsmouth, and colleagues from the National Museum Wales and University of Manchester, describes a relatively small dino that was probably only about 27.5 inches (70 centimeters) tall. 

Like its more famous relatives it had a sizable tail, and the whole animal probably measured about 6 feet 6 inches (200 centimeters) long.

The recovered fossils make up about 40 percent of the entire skeleton. Bones found are highlighted green, while orange represents external molds in the limestone and blue for tentatively identified bones.
The recovered fossils make up about 40 percent of the entire skeleton. Bones found are highlighted green, while orange represents external molds in the limestone and blue for tentatively identified bones.
PLOS ONE

Fossilized bivalves and echinoderms found nearby suggest that the dinosaur may have drifted out to sea after dying. The dinosaur's fossils represent approximately 40 percent of the entire skeleton. By noting the growth and fusing of the bones, paleontologists say this Dracoraptor specimen may have been a juvenile.

The discovery may prove to be the oldest-known dinosaur from the Jurassic Period, and is the first from that era found in Wales.