Science

Ireland's first and only dinosaur finds confirmed

Ireland's first and only dinos...
Dr Mike Simms with the theropod tibia (L) and the Scelidosaurus femur (R) found on Ireland
Dr Mike Simms with the theropod tibia (L) and the Scelidosaurus femur (R) found on Ireland
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Dr Mike Simms with the theropod tibia (L) and the Scelidosaurus femur (R) found on Ireland
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Dr Mike Simms with the theropod tibia (L) and the Scelidosaurus femur (R) found on Ireland
The Scelidosaurus femur fragment fossil
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The Scelidosaurus femur fragment fossil
The Theropod tibia fragment fossil
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The Theropod tibia fragment fossil
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The bones of the only dinosaurs to be found on the island of Ireland have been confirmed by a research team led by Dr. Mike Simms, a curator and paleontologist at National Museums NI. Drawing on the expertise of scientists from the University of Portsmouth and Queen's University Belfast, the two bone fragments were found to belong to two different individuals.

If you're into dinosaur hunting, Ireland is one of the most frustrating places to ply your trade. Not only is the island famous for not having any snakes, it also doesn't have any dinosaur fossils – at least, not until now.

The main reason why no such fossils have been found before is because of Ireland's peculiar geology. The rock strata of the island is mostly made up of material that dates from before or after the age of the dinosaurs, which means that, if there were any dinosaurs there, their remains would be extremely rare.

The two fragments, now housed in the Ulster Museum in Belfast, were discovered by Roger Byrne, who was a schoolteacher and fossil collector. They were found on the east coast in County Antrim and were previously believed to have come from the same individual. However, analysis, including 3D digital modeling, demonstrated that they came from the early Jurassic period, or about 200 million years ago, and were from two different animals.

The Theropod tibia fragment fossil
The Theropod tibia fragment fossil

Detailed study of their shape and interior structure showed that one of the fragments was from the femur of a four-legged herbivore called Scelidosaurus, while the other is from the tibia of a two-legged carnivore that is related to the dinosaur Sarcosaurus.

"This is a hugely significant discovery," says Simms. "The great rarity of such fossils here is because most of Ireland's rocks are the wrong age for dinosaurs, either too old or too young, making it nearly impossible to confirm dinosaurs existed on these shores. The two dinosaur fossils that Roger Byrne found were perhaps swept out to sea, alive or dead, sinking to the Jurassic seabed where they were buried and fossilized."

The research was published in the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association.

Source: University of Portsmouth

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