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Student palaeontologist stumbles upon missing fossil foot of 'Welsh Dragon' dinosaur

August 31 , 2016

by Culture24

Student dinosaur hunter finds missing foot of newly discovered 'Welsh Dragon' dinosaur on his first fossil outing

A student palaeontologist has unearthed the missing foot of a recently discovered dinosaur dubbed the Welsh Dragon, which is currently on display at national Museum Cardiff.

Sam Davies, who is studying Palaeontology at the University of Portsmouth, made the discovery at Lavernock Beach, near Penarth in South Wales, just 10 hours after a cliff fall revealed the fossilised foot.

The find has since been verified by Sam’s tutor and Reader in Palaeobiology at the University, Dr David Martill, as part of the same therapod dinosaur – a distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex – discovered by brothers Nick and Rob Haniga at Lavernock beach in spring 2014.

A relatively tiny predator, the Welsh Dragon would have been about 50 cm tall with small teeth for catching insects, lizards and small dinosaurs. It lived at the start of the Jurassic period, 201.3 million years ago, when south Wales was a coastal region with a warm climate.

Sam, who is about to start his third year at the university, admitted that at first he had “no idea” what he had picked up.

“It was my first day of doing field work for my third year project, and I was just wandering up and down the beach looking for fossils,” he added. “The dinosaur they found at the beach wasn’t even on my mind.”

Sam stumbled upon his lucky find, embedded in a 20 cm piece of rock, because it was directly in his line of sight as he was walking along.

“It was pure luck that I found it,” he said. “It was just sitting on top of a slab of rock. It was obvious the fossil was fingers or toes, because there were three in a row, but the first thing that came to mind was that it was some sort of plesiosaur.”

Describing the find as “a chance in a million,” Sam’s tutor Dr Martill said the discovery highlights the importance of encouraging fossil-hunting in this country.

“This new specimen will help us chart the evolution of dinosaur feet, specifically looking at the number of toes and the nature of the ankle bone," he added.

“What we can tell already is that this dinosaur was primitive. It’s right at the bottom of where we draw the line and say ‘These rocks are Triassic, and these are Jurassic’.”

Sam has now donated the fossilised foot to Amgueddfa Cymru. Other parts of the skeleton are on display at National Museum Cardiff until August 31.



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