Artist’s depiction of a British Archipelago during the Triassic. (Credit: Gabriel Ugueto)

BRISTOL, United Kingdom — For years, paleontologists thought dinosaurs roamed the Earth, inhabiting every area except for what is now modern-day Wales. Instead, this part of the United Kingdom has been known as the land of dragons, with the fictional red dragon even standing as a symbol of pride on the Welsh flag. However, a new study has found that one of these creatures may have actually existed in this region.

A large fossil discovery in Wales has revealed the existence of Welsh dinosaurs who once roamed a tropical lowland by the sea 200 million years ago. Dinosaur footprints were found in Barry and other nearby areas, suggesting these dinosaurs walked across the warm lowlands. The new findings published in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association boost other reports over the past decade that examined both the presence and diversity of dinosaur types in this part of the prehistoric world.

One of the greatest discoveries occurred at Lavernock Point, close to Cardiff and Penarth. The cliffs in these areas contain dark-colored shales and limestones — evidence of ancient shallow seas. The area also contained large amounts of bones. Some came from fish, sharks, and marine reptiles. A few, however, were confirmed to be dinosaur bones.

“The bone bed paints the picture of a tropical archipelago, which was subjected to frequent storms, that washed material from around the surrounding area, both in land and out at sea, into a tidal zone,” says lead author Owain Evans, a former Master’s student in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, in a media release. “This means that from just one fossil horizon, we can reconstruct a complex ecological system, with a diverse array of marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and placodonts in the water, and dinosaurs on land.”

Footprint found in Triassic rocks from South Wales.
Footprint found in Triassic rocks from South Wales. (Credit: Cindy Howells at the National Museum of Wales)

While conducting fieldwork at Lavernock, the research team found two important items: the fossilized remains of a placodont osteoderm and a coelacanth gular bone. According to Chris Duffin, a research project supervisor, these remains are usually rare in the United Kingdom. The findings paint a new picture of what type of dinosaurs roamed the United Kingdom and how they might have appeared.

“The volume of dinosaur remains found at Lavernock is extremely exciting, and is a chance to study a complex, and often mysterious period in their evolutionary history,” says Michael Benton, a professor at Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences and another project supervisor. “We have identified the remains of a large Plateosaurus like animal, along with several bones which likely belonged to a predatory theropod.”

The research paper also covers a significant amount of new information from microfossils found at the site. These included fish teeth, scales, and bone fragments from thousands of different species. A discovery of this size will help to find the main species living in these shallow seas a long time ago. With any luck, scientists may one day find some evidence of a Welsh dragon in these ancient relics.

About Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master's of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor's of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women's health.

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