A dinosaur distantly related to Tyrannosaurus rex, or T rex — but with a body the size of a chicken — that would probably have ruled the roost about 200 million years ago has been discovered.
The diminutive but fearsome creature, whose fossilized remains were found in a quarry in south Wales, is the oldest theropod — a group that includes T rex and modern birds — found in the UK.
It has been named Pendraig milnerae — pendraig meaning “chief dragon” in middle Welsh and milnerae in honor of the late Angela Milner, a researcher and deputy keeper of paleontology at the Natural History Museum in London for more than 30 years.
Fragmentary fossils of Pendraig milnerae were discovered in a quarry in south Wales in the 1950s, but in the past few years had been stashed away in a drawer with some crocodile samples until they were found by Milner.
It is thought that the dinosaur lived between 200 million and 215 million 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 1m-long.
“Pendraig milnerae lived near the beginning of the evolution of the meat-eating dinosaurs,” museum research fellow Stephan Spiekman said. “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.”
Spiekman and his colleagues gave it the name “dragon chief” to honor its probable position as the apex predator.
The reference to Milner, who died in August, was apt as she played a vital role in relocating the specimen, as well as contributing significantly to the understanding of theropod dinosaurs.
The remains were found in the 1950s by paleontologists Pamela Robinson and Kenneth Kermack.
The remains were studied, but the creature was not named.
Susannah Maidment, a senior researcher in paleobiology at the museum, was trying to track the specimen down and turned to Milner for help.
“She went away and about three hours later she had it,” Maidment said of Milner. “She found it in a drawer with crocodile material.”
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