Welsh Dinosaur Preparation

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This blog covers the gradual preparation of the Welsh dinosaur named Dracoraptor hanigani which translates from Latin as ‘hanigan’s dragon robber’.The dinosaur was discovered on a Welsh beach and is from the Jurassic period, dating around 210 million years old.

It was discovered on the Lavernock coast by two fossil hunting brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan, from Llantwit Major.About 40% of the skeleton was recovered and as most of its bones are not fully formed it is believed to be a juvenile animal, distantly related to Tyrannosaurus rex.

It would have stood on two legs and been an agile beast measuring around 2.2 ft tall and 6.5 ft long. I was lucky to have been one of the preparators involved in exposing the bones, which I photographed during the preparation. Nick first contacted me back in 2014 regarding the dinosaurs preparation as the preservation was similar to Somerset material which Nick knew I have a lot of experience in preparing.

Initially when I viewed the first pieces of the fossil I thought they may be marine reptile…because that was most probable, but Nick was convinced it was a dinosaur, and once the preparation took place it was clear that they belonged to a different and much rarer animal.

The images below show the skull of the dinosaur before the mechanical preparation has taken place. Nick had already dried the blocks slowly under newspaper and run superglue into the cracks that formed and my first job was to ensure that the fossil was stabalised further with Paraloid (B72) this process quickly transforms the fossil into a more manageable piece that can be handled easier.

Welsh Dinosaur unpreparedWelsh Dinosaur FossilWelsh Dinosaur Unprepared

The surface matrix surrounding and covering the fossil was brittle and already delaminating from being exposed on the beach after a cliff fall.  It had been tightly compacted under tonnes of Jurassic sediment for millions of years only to be exposed by coastal erosion. Like so many fossils that become rapidly exposed to the elements, it was important that it was discovered and recovered quickly to prevent further damage to the fossil.

After the consolidation process, we decided to record the areas on the surface of the matrix where the impressions of bone were evident, but had already been lost to time and tide.

Welsh Dinosaur surface detail cast Welsh Dinosaur surface detail cast Welsh Dinosaur surface detail cast Welsh Dinosaur surface detail cast

Soft silicone molds that copy all the information on the surface of the fossil, but don’t damage the fossil are great for this. After the silicone is set and removed I can cast from the silicone to make resin replicas and paint the areas on the replica to highlight the missing parts.

After the molding and casting stage we decided that the preparation should be carried out in such a way that as much fossil information is retained as possible, including any micro fossils discovered in the surrounding matrix.

Welsh Dinosaur micro fossils Welsh Dinosaur Micro fossils

The images below show the fossil before preparation and after for comparison

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Following the discovery and when it became clear it was indeed a dinosaur, Nick and Rob approached the National Museum of Cardiff with a view to donating the fossil to the Museum. The museum then involved Dave Martill and Steve Vidovich from Portmouth University to write the scientific description of the dinosaur and name the dinosaur which is now on display at National Museum Cardiff  https://museum.wales/cardiff/