New dinosaur footprint discovered on south Wales beach

1/29/2021
A well-preserved dinosaur footprint has been discovered on a beach near Barry in south Wales and could help scientists establish more about how dinosaurs walked.

Four-year-old Lily Wilder and her family made the discovery whilst out on a walk in their local area in January.

Lily was the first to spot the new footprint on a loose block near the sea at Bendricks Bay - a well-known beach for its dinosaur footprints, preserved for 220 million years in desert muds.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales Palaeontology curator Cindy Howells was notified of the find and has described it as the best specimen ever found on this beach. The specimen is a type of footprint called Grallator, although it is impossible to identify which dinosaur made the print 220 million years ago.

The new footprint is just over 10cm long and is likely to have been made by a dinosaur that stood about 75cm tall and 2.5m long. It would have been a slender animal which walked on its two hind feet and actively hunted other small animals and insects.

There are no fossilised bones from this 220 million year old dinosaur, but similar footprints in the USA are known to have been made by the dinosaur Coelophysis which does not occur in the UK.

Many of the other footprints found at Bendricks Bay in the past have most likely not been from dinosaurs, but rather from some of the more crocodilian-type reptiles that also inhabited the area.

The beach is under private ownership and is legally protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The landowner, British Institute for Geological Conservation is a charity that works to conserve natural heritage through site ownership, education and community engagement.

Special permission had to be sought from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in order to legally remove it. The fossil was extracted this week and will be taken to National Museum Cardiff where it will be protected for future generations to enjoy, and for scientists to study.

Dinosaurs first appeared around 230 million years ago, so this footprint represents a very important early point in their evolution, when the different groups of dinosaurs were first diversifying. Its spectacular preservation may help scientists establish more about the actual structure of their feet as the preservation is clear enough to show individual pads and even claw impressions.

Cindy Howells, Palaeontology Curator, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, said  “This fossilised dinosaur footprint from 220 million years ago is one of the best-preserved examples from anywhere in the UK and will really aid palaeontologists to get a better idea about how these early dinosaurs walked. Its acquisition by the museum is mainly thanks to Lily and her family who first spotted it.

“During the Covid pandemic scientists from Amgueddfa Cymru have been highlighting the importance of nature on people’s doorstep and this is a perfect example of this. Obviously, we don’t all have dinosaur footprints on our doorstep but there is wealth of nature local to you if you take the time to really look close enough.”

Sally Wilder, Lily’s mother, said, “It was Lily and Richard (her father) who discovered the footprint.  Lily saw it as when they were walking along,  and said “Daddy look”. When Richard came home and showed me the photograph, I thought it looked amazing. Richard thought it was too good to be true. I was put in touch with experts who took it from there.

“We were thrilled to find out it really was a dinosaur footprint and I am happy that it will be taken to the national museum where we can be enjoyed and studied for generations.”

Ben Evans from British Institute for Geological Conservation said,

“Working together with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales has allowed this amazing specimen to be safely recovered and re-homed alongside other specimens from this site. This beach is a site of special scientific interest and while we encourage people to visit and use it responsibly, collection of rocks, minerals and fossils from this site is not permitted. The BIGC, Amgueddfa Cymru or Natural Resources Wales should be contacted in the event of a new discovery.”

Nadia De Longhi, South Central Operations Manager for Natural Resources Wales said:

“Wales is home to a rich, complex and varied geological landscape of international importance.

This particular beach where the fossil was found, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which contains geological features that require careful site management in order to protect and preserve them.

“The dinosaur footprint is a spectacular find and we provided advice to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales to ensure it’s safe removal so that it can be preserved as a scientific and educational resource”

Amgueddfa Cymru is a family of seven museums and a collections centre, which are all free to enter thanks to the support of the Welsh Government. Together, it is home to the nation’s art, history and science collections, which will continue to grow so that they can be used and enjoyed by both present and future generations.

One of its museums, St Fagans National Museum of History which explores the history and culture of Wales, won the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019.

As a registered charity, Amgueddfa Cymru is grateful for all support. The events and exhibitions programme is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. 

 

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