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Dracoraptor hanigani

By TrefRex
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Named by David Martill and colleagues, 2016
Diet: Carnivore (Small vertebrates and scavenged on carcasses of washed up marine life on shore)
Length: 6.5 feet (2 meters)
Weight: 25 kilograms
Region: Wales UK
Age: 201.3-199.3 million BC (Hettangian stage of the Early Jurassic period)
Note: The only specimen of this dinosaur was from a juvenile, so its estimated by scientists that the adults would've been up to 10 feet (3 meters) long.

One of the few species of non-avian dinosaurs ever found in Wales, this small, bipedal theropod was discovered in a stone plate that was fallen from a cliff in March 2014 by amatuer paleontologists and brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan on a beach in Lavernock Point near Penarth, south of Cardiff, Wales. Then Judith Adams and Phillip Manning of the University of Manchester, England made X-ray pictures and CAT-scans of the fossil and it was domated to the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, prepare by Craig Chivers and Gary Blackwell. Then in the summer of 2015, Sam Davies, a paleontological student from the University of Portsmouth, England, found a rock plate from the same locality that contains the foot bones.

Realizing that they'd discovered a new species of a carnivorous theropod dinosaur, the first-ever found in Wales, paleontologist David M. Martill from the University of Portsmouth and colleagues from the National Museum Wales and the University of Manchester named and described the creature in January 2016, Dracoraptor hanigani, the "Dragon Thief" which honors the Welsh Dragon, while its specific name honors the Hanigan brothers that found it two years earlier.

Consisting of a partial skeleton with a skull, only 40% of the skeletal elements of Dracoraptor is present, making this the most complete Mesozoic non-avian dinosaur ever found in Wales.

A small, bipedal dinosaur that stood around 2 feet (70 centimeters) at the hips and was over 6 feet (2 meters) long, Dracoraptor was slim and agile with a long tail to help it to counterbalance. It had a pointy, narrow snout, lined with small, pointed, serrated teeth up to a centimeter long, showing that it ate small animals. However, the only specimen of Dracoraptor was from a juvenile, meaning that this dinosaur would've been even larger.

Cladistic analysis shows that Dracoraptor was a basal member of the neotheropoda, low in the evolutionary tree. This is a clade of theropod dinosaurs that includes the coelophysoids and the more advanced theropods (including the ancestors of modern birds) that would come in the Jurassic and the Cretaceous.

The remains of this dinosaur was found in the lower Bull Cliff Member of the Blue Lias Formation in the United Kingdom and it dates back around 201.3 million years ago at the beginning of the Jurassic period, making this the oldest-known dinosaur from that geological time period. At that time, the Lavernock Point was a beach on one of the tiny archipelago islands on the vast ancient Tethys Sea that lay close to the Equator and the climate was warm back then. Over 200 million years before the Welsh Dragon, Dracoraptor stalked this coastal region, feeding on not only small animals, but also scavenging on carcasses of fish, ammonites, and other marine life washed up on shore.

201.3 million years ago, at the end of the Triassic and the beginning of the Jurassic, Earth suffered a catastrophic event known as the Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction event and while its unknown what caused it, the most likely culprit of it was that around that time, the great supercontinent of Pangaea that stretched from the North to the South Pole for nearly a hundred million years, was beginning to crack and break apart, causing a massive series of volcanic activity and an outpouring of basaltic lava from its interior all across its center in what is now the Atlantic coast. Such intense volcanism would've throwed up tons of ash and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which would've triggered devastating consequences on the climate and ecosystems. While not as devastating as the "Great Dying", the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction, which occurred around 51 million years before, nor the infamous K-Pg (Cretaceous-Paleogene) Mass Extinction event that occurred around 135 million years later, half of all species both on land and in the sea was wiped out.

But the dinosaurs narrowly survived the event and were freed from competition. In its aftermath, they'd diversified and dominate the Earth worldwide, evolving into a diversity of different species, both predator and prey and over time, they'd grow larger. Among the victims of the mass extinction event, were the pseodosuchian, a line of ancient reptiles that includes the ancestors of modern-day crocodilians and those that are now extinct. Before then, they included the fearsome, large-headed, armored rauisuchians which were the alpha predators of the Late Triassic period. But during the extinction event, they, along with other pseodosuchians, except the line that led to modern-day crocodilians, disappeared. But the theropod dinosaurs that survived the event and freed from competition evolved to replace the rauisuchians as the new alpha predators in its aftermath and over time, they'd begin to grow larger and fearsome.

Before the discovery of Dracoraptor, little is known about dinosaurs at the start of this diversification and rise to dominance. But Dracoraptor's discovery and description that lived in the earliest part of the Jurassic period, has helped fill in that gap and shed light of the start of their diversification and evolution.

Note: I actually did this in honor of St. David's Day, a Welsh holiday, for the fact that my family comes from Wales, which is where this dinosaur was found!:D (Big Grin)  Even my actual name is derived in Welsh. Its quite surprising that we have new species of theropod dinosaur found in Wales.
Coloration based on the Welsh Dragon mostly!
Image size
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© 2016 - 2020 TrefRex
anonymous's avatar
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Vespisaurus's avatar
WWWOOWW! This dinosaur featured in Dinosaur Britain, a two part TV Show on ITV with Elie Harrison. I've seen the show on YouTube. I give it two thumbs up! When Elie visited Dave Martill and showed the Welsh dinosaur to her, (This was in Part 2) it was yet to be named. NOW IT IS!!!!!! I am so pleased.

Here's the link to part 2…
But if you would like to see part 1 first, here it is too.…

And furthermore, Trefor, you'd like this, I recently emailed paleontologist Mark Norell from the American Museum of Natural History about the as-yet-unnamed titanosaur they found in Argentina, By the way, was found the same year as Dracoraptor. According to the recent documentary about the dinosaur with David Attenborough, This titanosaur, (as far as Phil Manning's, the hilarious paleontologist from the University of Mancester is concerned)
is heavier than Argentinosaurus! The reason why I came to Mark Norell is because the recently added the skeleton of the titanosaur in the museum. And I came up with a very cool, accurate, scientifc name for the titanosaur.  Are you ready? Patagotitan poli "Diego Pol's Patagonian giant." So I emailed him about that name, and has yet to reply, probably because he is conferring with the other scientists about it, But if that name gets confirmed, I'd go down in history for naming my first dinosaur!!!  Wish me luck!!!!!! 
TrefRex's avatar
I'll wish you luck Mike! :)

Thank you and thanks for the link!

Yeah I've heard about this giant sauropod found in Argentina that's said to be even heavier than Argentinosaurus and watched the David Attenborough program of it! :)