New Dinosaur Species Offers Evolutionary Clues

By Reuters
February 10,2016
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A recently found 200 million year old dinosaur found in Wales is offering vital clues to understanding the evolutionary change from the late Triassic to the early Jurassic Period.

Dracoraptor hanigani is a newly discovered dinosaur species. Found two years ago on this Welsh beach, palaentologists say these remains are among the best preserved Jurassic dinosaurs ever found - and among the most complete specimens of the Period.

It could help us understand the late Triassic Period extinction event that wiped out half the world's creatures, and set the scene for the dominance of dinosaurs like T. Rex.

Palaeontology curator at National Museum of Wales, Cindy Howells, saying:

"Because we've got so much of it we can fill in quite a lot of gaps in the evolution of this period....and the comparison of its anatomy helps us understand how these dinosaurs moved, what they ate, how they lived."

Around two metres long from head to tail, the Dracoraptor found near Cardiff is probably a juvenile. It's notable for its short arms and large hands.

Palaeontology curator at National Museum of Wales, Cindy Howells, saying:

"It was an agile, meat eating creature with sharp teeth, sharp claws, able to move swiftly and grab its prey. We don't quite know what it would have eaten, but possibly small reptiles, small mammals, and possibly other dinosaurs as well. It was a bit like a medium sized dog, very slender, very long-tailed to help it balance as it moved."

Dracoraptor's 200 million year old fossilised bones are on display at the National Museum of Wales.

Experts say they offer clues to the diversification of dinosaurs into various species in the mid-Jurassic Period, some of which are the ancestors of birds.