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Only the third new dinosaur found in Wales given ‘dragon’ Welsh language name

06 Oct 2021 3 minute read
Artist’s depiction of how the dinosaur Pendraig milnerae – meaning chief dragon – might have looked. Artwork: © James Robbins

A newly identified species of dragon found in a Welsh quarry has been given a Welsh name – Pendraig milnerae.

Pendraig means “chief dragon” in middle Welsh and milnerae in honour of the late Angela Milner, deputy keeper of palaeontology at the Natural History Museum for more than 30 years, who died in August.

Stephan Spiekman, a research fellow at the Natural History Museum, and his colleagues gave it the name dragon chief to honour its probable position as the apex predator.

It was unearthed in a quarry called Pant-y-ffynnon located north-west of Cardiff in the 1950s.

Richard Butler, co-author on a paper on the dinosaur and professor of palaeobiology at the University of Birmingham, said: “Dinosaur discoveries are really rare in Wales, and this is only the third dinosaur species known from the country.

“It’s very exciting to learn more about the dinosaurs that lived here in the UK during the Triassic, right at the dawn of dinosaur evolution.”

‘Island dwarfism’

The dinosaur offers the earliest evidence ever found on the island of Britain of theropods, a hugely diverse groups of dinosaurs that includes T. rex, Velociraptor and all birds.

It is thought the dinosaur lived between 200m and 215m years ago during the Late Triassic period. It probably had a body size similar to that of a modern-day chicken, but with its tail taking it to about a metre-long.

Stephan Spiekman said: “Pendraig milnerae lived near the beginning of the evolution of the meat-eating dinosaurs.

“It’s clear from the bones we have 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 like T rex which evolved much later.

“The area where these specimens were found was most likely an island during the time period in which it lived. Species which live on islands often tend to become smaller than those on the mainland in a phenomenon called island dwarfism.

“We need more evidence from more species to investigate the potential for island dwarfism in this area during that time, but if we could prove it, it would be the earliest known occurrence of this evolutionary phenomenon.”

The remains were found in the 50s by the palaeontologists Pamela Robinson and Kenneth Kermack. They were studied, but the creature was not identified or named at the time.

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Geoffrey ap.
Geoffrey ap.
2 years ago

Can someone who’s more knowledgeable then I am, please explain what is Middle Welsh about Pendraid? It looks like perfectly modern Welsh to me. Is this perhaps an example of some academics being unable to accept the existence of a modern living language in Cymru other than English.

2 years ago
Reply to  Geoffrey ap.

“Pen draig” could indeed be construed as Modern Welsh for chief warrior; head of a dragon or warrior.

However, there are no citations of this form after c.1456. Earlier forms were written as pendreic, penn dreic and that 1456 reference, pen draic. (All subject to the Soft Mutation rule – or not, depending possibly on the poet’s whim.)

For further info, see pen-draig, pen draig inGeiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (GPC). Unlike the English equivalent, (OED), it’s free on-line.

Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru

2 years ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

Does anyone know what the criteria are for the citations GPC selects?
“pen” has 1803 as the most recent citation date and “draig” has 1772.

2 years ago
Reply to  CapM

I don’t know how they are FINALLY selected, but I do know anyone can submit a quotation (oral or in print – preferably the latter as that is tangible evidence/proof of the word/phrase’s existence in the language.)

Anyone may submit such quotations to GPC in Aberystwyth.

Additionally, you may become a “Friend of GPC” (I am) for the princely sum of £10.00 per year.

But don’t forget GPC itself, on-line is a completely free resource.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
2 years ago

A new dinosaur discovery. They even gave it a Welsh name! Then the main BBC presenters spoil the moment by calling it Pendrig. May as well call it Nando the super chicken.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 years ago

Great to see Welsh used rather than the usual Latin in the naming of this dinosaur. I’m surprised more Welsh names aren’t used more in paleontology when finds are uncovered in Wales. An interesting fact. Welsh names are the norm in Geological periods. Take the period called pre-Cambrian, taken from the Welsh mountain range in North Wales. The Ordovician & Silurian periods, also taken from Welsh tribal names in North & South East Wales, and yes Devonian too, and although now in England was an ancient Welsh tribal area called Dyfnaint, also known by the Saxons in Wessex as West… Read more »

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