201 million year old dinosaur named after a dad from Preston

Nick and Rob Hanigan uncovering the skeleton on a Welsh beach
Nick and Rob Hanigan uncovering the skeleton on a Welsh beach
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The oldest Jurassic dinosaur in the UK has been named after a man from Preston.

Nick Hanigan, from Broughton, found the fossilised remains of the theropod dinosaur, which is now on display in a museum and described in a formal paper.

Dracoraptor hanigani - dinosaur named after Nick Hanigan from Preston, in museum in Wales

Dracoraptor hanigani - dinosaur named after Nick Hanigan from Preston, in museum in Wales

The dad-of-two made the find while with his brother, Rob, at the Lavernock beach in the Vale of Glamorgan in 2014, and the dinosaur now has a name - Dracoraptor hanigani.

The name Dracoraptor means ‘dragon robber’, Draco meaning dragon, the symbol of Wales.

The species name honours Nick and Rob, who discovered the fossil of the distant cousin of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and have donated it to the National Museum of Wales.

It is described in the paper “The oldest Jurassic dinosaur: a basal neotheropod from the Hettangian of Great Britain” by David Martill, Steven Vidovic, Cindy Howells and John Nudds in the online Journal PLoS ONE.

The pair found the fossil after storms in spring 2014. After a cliff fall on the beach, they spotted several loose blocks containing part of the skeleton of a small dinosaur and collected the specimen, including its skull, claws and serrated teeth.

A team of experts established that the dinosaur was a meat-eater, from the theropod group. They also suggested it was a juvenile animal as some of its bones are not yet fully formed. It lived at the very beginning of the Jurassic Period 201 million years ago, possibly making it the oldest Jurassic dinosaur in the world.

David Anderson, Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales said: “We’re very grateful to Nick and Rob Hanigan who have been incredibly generous in donating this wonderful specimen to the collection of Amgueddfa Cymru, to preserve it for future generations.

“We are delighted to put this specimen back on display in the main hall. It proved to be very popular last year with the public and this time visitors will also be able to see another recent discovery which is the foot of the dinosaur. I hope people take this opportunity to find out more about this fascinating new dinosaur species which was discovered here in south Wales and dates back 200 million years.”