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The Welsh dinosaur comes back to life

July 10 , 2016


An exciting new exhibit will be displayed in the Natural History galleries at National Museum Cardiff from Tuesday 5 July. A life-size reconstruction of the Welsh dinosaur Dracoraptor hangani can be seen perched on a rock alongside the museum’s other dinosaurs in the Evolution of Wales gallery.

The bones of the Welsh dinosaur Dracoraptor hanigani (meaning dragon robber) were discovered in 2014 at Lavernock beach near Penarth in South Wales by brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan. This dinosaur was a small meat eating animal the size of a large dog and a distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex and the skeleton is currently on display in the main hall of National Museum Cardiff.

Bob Nicholls a Bristol–based palaeo-artist was commissioned to make the life-sized model. The project took months of painstaking work to ensure it was accurate and scientists believe the body might have been covered in a feathery down, and possibly with quills along its back and this was carefully applied to the surface of the model by Bob.

This new Welsh dinosaur was a very distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex and lived at the very beginning of the Jurassic Period (201 million years ago) possibly making it the oldest Jurassic dinosaur in the world. It was a small, slim, agile animal, probably only about 70 cm tall and about 200 cm long, with a long tail to help it balance. It lived at the time when south Wales was a coastal region like today, but with a much warmer climate, and dinosaurs were just starting to diversify. It is related to Coelophysis which lived approximately 203 to 196 million years ago in what is now the southwestern part of the United States of America.

Palaeo-artist Bob Nicholls who created the model dinosaur said “There is no greater honour for a paleo-artist than to be the first to show the world what a long extinct animal looked like.

“In total, it took me three months to build Dracoraptor. From preliminary research to sculpting, moulding and casting the model to adding feathers, glass eyes, and painting the exposed skin, it was a long process. I enjoyed seeing the completed version but I can’t wait to see the finished model on show at National Museum Cardiff when all the weeks of hard work will pay off.

“It may sound like a simple tale, but if you really think about it, it is astonishing to be a tiny part of this 200 million year old story and it gives me goose bumps.”

Dr Caroline Buttler, Head of Palaeontology, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, said, “It is amazing to see the dinosaur brought to life and this is one of the most realistic models I have ever seen. Visitors of all ages, children and adults alike are going to love it.”

“The fossilised skeleton of the dinosaur which is located in the main hall has proved very popular with visitors over the past year so it’s great that they can see the model up close and see what it would have really looked like.

“The Welsh dinosaur has fascinated the public and museum palaeontologists and we really wanted a 3D reconstruction to bring the dinosaur to life. The model was made possible thanks to the generosity of Amgueddfa Cymru Patrons and the players of the People’s Post Code Lottery. We are very grateful for their support”.

National Museum Cardiff’s exhibition and activity programme has been supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Entry to the Museum is free, thanks to the support of the Welsh Government.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales operates seven museums across Wales: National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans National History Museum, National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenafon, National Wool Museum, Drefach Felindre, National Slate Museum, Llanberis and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.

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