Scientists have identified the UK’s oldest known meat-eating dinosaur – a chicken-sized animal that must have been a meter long with its tail ragged.
The fossil was named Pandrig Milnere and belongs to a theropod group, which includes T. rex and modern birds are also included.
Theropods are a group of carnivorous dinosaurs whose members were generally bipedal and were small and delicately built from very large.
Pendrig means chief dragon in Middle Welsh and Milnere honors Dr Angela Milner, who for more than 30 years was Deputy Keeper of the Natural History Museum (NHM) of Palaeolithic. He died on 13 August this year.
Dating back to the Late Triassic period (more than 200 million years ago), the species was first discovered at Pant-y-Finnan in southern Wales and described in a 1983 thesis.
However, it has now been reclassified as a new species, and is the oldest theropod discovered in the UK to date.
Fragmented fossils of the species include specimens of the pelvic region, vertebrae, and an associated left thigh.
Dr Stephen Speakman, Research Fellow at the Natural History Museum and first author on the paper, said: “Pendrig Milnere lived near the beginning of the evolution of meat-eating dinosaurs.”
“From the bones it is clear that it was a meat eater, but early in the evolution of this group these animals were quite small in contrast to the very famous meat-eating dinosaurs such as T. rex, which evolved much later.”
Dr Susannah Madment, a senior researcher in paleontology at NHM who worked with Dr Milner, said this paper would not have been possible without them. “I told Angela that I didn’t get the sample, and so she left and got it about three hours later.
“He found it in a drawer with alligator contents. The specimen must have been in his mind’s eye since he first saw it from that drawer.”
Dr Speakman said: “The area where these specimens were found was an island during the time period in which it lived.”
“Species that live on islands often become smaller than those on the mainland in a phenomenon called island dwarfism.”
Still, Dr. Speakman said more evidence from more species is needed to investigate the possibility of island dwarfism in the region during that time.
The research from the Natural History Museum and the University of Birmingham is published in the Royal Society Open Science.
Includes reporting by PA
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /