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Newly identified species is UK’s oldest known carnivorous dinosaur

By on October 6, 2021 0

Pendraig milnerae was a small species of carnivorous dinosaur, living in what is now South Wales (James Robbins / Natural History Museum)

Scientists have identified the UK’s oldest known carnivorous dinosaur – a chicken-sized animal that is said to have been three feet long with its tail.

The fossil was named Pendraig milnerae and belongs to a group of theropods, which also includes T. rex and modern birds.

The theropod is a carnivorous dinosaur from a group whose members were typically bipedal and ranged from small and delicately built to very large.

Pendraig means chief dragon in Middle Welsh and milnerae honors Dr Angela Milner, who was the deputy custodian of paleontology at the Natural History Museum (NHM) for over 30 years. She passed away on August 13 of this year.

Dating back to the Late Triassic period (over 200 million years ago), the species was first discovered at Pant-y-ffynnon in South Wales and described in a 1983 thesis. .

However, it has now been reclassified as a new species and the oldest theropod discovered in the UK to date.

Fragmentary fossils of the species consist of specimens from the pelvic region, vertebrae, and an associated left femur.

Dr Stephan Spiekman, researcher at the Natural History Museum and first author of the article, said: “Pendraig milnerae lived near the beginning of the evolution of carnivorous dinosaurs.”

“It is clear from the bones we have that it was a meat eater, but at the beginning of the evolution of this group, these animals were quite small, unlike the very famous carnivorous dinosaurs like the T. rex which evolved much later. “

Dr Susannah Maidment, senior palaeobiology researcher at NHM, who worked with Dr Milner, said this article would not have been possible without her. “I told Angela I couldn’t find the specimen, so she left and about three hours later got it.”

“She found it in a drawer with crocodile material. She must have had the specimen in mind when she had already looked in that drawer.

Dr Spiekman added: “The area where these specimens were found was most likely an island when she lived.”

“Species that live on islands often tend to become smaller than those on the mainland in a phenomenon called island dwarfism.”

Still, Dr Spiekman said more evidence from a larger number of species is needed to study the potential for island dwarfism in this region during this time.

Research from the Natural History Museum and the University of Birmingham is published in the Royal Society Open Science.

Includes reports by PA

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