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