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Chicken-sized ‘dragon’ is the oldest carnivorous dinosaur found in the U.K., scientists say

Scientists have discovered a new species that they say is the oldest carnivorous dinosaur found in the U.K. — a chicken-sized relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex called Pendraig milnerae.

According to a Wednesday article in the journal Royal Society Open Science, Pendraig milnerae are anew small-sized coelophysoid theropod from the Late Triassic of Wales” and roamed the U.K. over 200 million years ago. Theropods are two-legged carnivores with hollow bones and three-toed feet, including the T. Rex.

Pendraig means “chief dragon” in old Welsh.

The fossilized remains of Pendraig milnerae were dug up in the 1950s from a Welsh mine in the town of Pant-y-ffynnon.

At first, scientists mistook the fossils with those of an already-identified dinosaur species then known as Syntarsus, but reidentification of many Syntarsus dinosaurs demanded a new look at the forgotten Welsh fossils, the Natural History Museum in London said in a press release.

The fossilized bones were mistaken for another species for many years.Stephan Spiekman et al. 2021

“There is no obvious character that set this species apart. It has a certain combination of several characters that are unique amongst its group, which showed to us it was clearly a new species,” said study author Stephan Spiekman.

Scientists said they do not know if the fossils are small because they are from a juvenile, or that it is a small adult specimen in part because of a dwarfism effect observed in some island-dwelling fossils.

Pendraig milnerae is named after Dr. Angela Milner, a paleontology expert and pioneering figure at the Natural History Museum who died in August.

Milner helped relocate the specimens — long thought lost — that led to the discovery of the new species, senior paleontology researcher Susannah Maidment said.

“She found it in a drawer of crocodile material, and she must have had the specimen in her mind’s eye from when she had previously looked through it. This paper would not have been possible without her,” Maidment said in the statement from the museum.

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