Dinosaur foot found by student takes story of Wales’ newest dinosaur forward

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Recently discovered fossils of a Dinosaur’s foot has helped advance the story of Wales’ newest dinosaur adding a new chapter in a story started off by two brothers at Lavernock Beach, near Penarth in South Wales.

Sam Davies, a palaeontology student at Portsmouth University, stumbled upon the fossilised foot of possibly the earliest Jurassic dinosaur in the world. Davies arrived at the South Wales location no more than 10 hours after a cliff fall, that effectively unearthed the fossilised remains of a dinosaur foot.

Upon close examination, Dr David Martill, Reader in Palaeobiology at the University of Portsmouth, concluded that the fossil remains are actually a part of the same therapod dinosaur – a distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex – which was found earlier and is on display at National Museum Cardiff until 31 August.

Sam Davies on Lavernock BeachDavies saw the the fossil, embedded in a 20 cm piece of rock, because it was in his line of sight as he was walking along.

“It was pure luck that I found it. It was just sitting on top of a slab of rock. It was obvious the fossil was fingers or toes, because there were three in a row, but the first thing that came to mind was that it was some sort of plesiosaur”, Davies said.

Dr Martill says that the new specimen will enable them to chart the evolution of dinosaur feet, specifically looking at the number of toes and the nature of the ankle bone.

“What we can tell already is that this dinosaur was primitive. It’s right at the bottom of where we draw the line and say ‘These rocks are Triassic, and these are Jurassic’, added Dr Martill.

Sam Davies with the fossil footDr Caroline Buttler, Head of Palaeontology at Amgueddfa Cymru added: “The dinosaur found by Nick and Rob Hanigan is the first skeleton of a theropod found in Wales. Sam’s find adds to its significance because we can learn more about the animal and how it is related to the dinosaurs that eventually evolved into birds.

“We’re very grateful to Sam for donating the foot to the Museum and hope to put it on display for our visitors to see very soon.”

The skeleton, already on display at National Museum Cardiff includes the small dinosaur’s razor sharp teeth, and claws.

The Welsh dinosaur was a small, slim, agile dinosaur, probably only about 50cm tall and about 200cm long, which had a long tail to help it balance. It lived at the time when south Wales was a coastal region, offering a warm climate. It had lots of small, blade-like, sharp, serrated teeth suggesting that it would have eaten insects, small mammals and other reptiles.