AFTER THE FALL

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

https://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/en/enjoying/Coast-and-Countryside/Heritage-Coast/Fossils-and-Geology.aspx#ad-image-5

I’m fortunate in having a personal guide to the geology as my granddaughter Rhiannon is studying for a degree in Earth Sciences.

Rhiannon and fallen rocks near the cliffs at Southerndown

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  

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2016/january/welsh-dragon-thief-is-oldest-known-jurassic-dinosaur.html

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.

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

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