On my home page I promised there would be dinosaurs, so here’s a post on the dinosaur Dracoraptor hanigani whose fossilized bones were discovered ner Barry in 2014.
Limestone cliffs extend east of Barry to Penarth and west along the Heritage Coast from Aberthaw to Porthcawl. The cliffs are geologically very interesting as well as scenic, and there is a glimpse of this at
I’m fortunate in having a personal guide to the geology as my granddaughter Rhiannon is studying for a degree in Earth Sciences.
Sections of the cliffs fall down all the time and when part of the cliff at Lavernock Point fell onto the beach in 2014 brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan, who are keen fossil hunters, examined the newly broken slabs. They had hoped to find fossils of ichthyosaurs but instead they saw the outlines of bones they did not recognise. They sent their puzzling find to Manchester University where the fossilised bones were scanned and X rayed and then sent for further study at Plymouth University.
The bones were judged to belong to a previously unknown dog sized dinosaur which had feathers and sharp teeth and lived on the shoreline as a hunter and scavenger around 200 million years ago. It was given the name Dracoraptor hanigani. There’s more info on the dinosaur at
Nick and Rob Hanigan donated the fossil bones to the National Museum of Wales and these, together with a model made by a paleo-artist, can be seen in in the Evolution of Wales Gallery at Cardiff Museum.
The cliffs around Barry contain the fossils of a variety of prehistoric animals with hard shells or skeletons but there are no traces of the soft single celled organisms which were the earliest forms of life. Amoeba is the name given to unicellular organisms with a nucleus which move by extending their cell wall; the first amoeba probably first appeared around 3 billion years ago, thousands of millions of years before Dracoraptor and I took our turns at exploring the coast around Barry.
The poem that follows has inexplicably acquired a large space after the first 2 verses which I can’t manage to correct. Please scroll down to reach verse 3 onwards,
AFTER THE FALL After the rumbling fall the brothers arrived to find the shadows of bones; a gruelling scrutiny fleshed out the stones. An artist appeared and conjured up a dog sized animal with downy feathers and tiger-sharp teeth. The moon once rocked it on its tides, sea urchins scavenged its entrails, each scrap of rotting flesh a life-giving blessing. A rain of small corpses drenched in calcium, floating on millennia, weighed down its bones and turned them to stone. I honour the relics laid out under glass, the radius and ulna, femur, fibula and vertebrae, small ghosts of my bones. Dracoraptor and I paddle in the shallows, a sea of trillions of sunsets flows beyond the horizon to a foggy shore. Here the first amoeba rippled and stretched, far upon far from the precarious tumbling cliffs of home and Dracoraptor’s bones. Anne Bryan