Pantydraco: The Dragon of South Wales (UK)

Pantydraco: The Dragon of South Wales (UK)

Here, we discover the Pantydraco, a fascinating dinosaur from the Late Triassic period unearthed from the valleys of South Wales. Dive into the world of this unique creature and explore its origins, characteristics, and the environment it once roamed.

Welcome, fellow dinosaur enthusiasts! Today, we’re journeying back in time, all the way to the Late Triassic period, to meet a fascinating creature that once roamed the valleys of South Wales. Its name is Pantydraco, a name that might sound peculiar at first, but carries a deep connection to the place of its discovery. This dinosaur, with its intriguing characteristics and unique history, offers us a glimpse into a world long past, yet still alive in the fossil record.

Pantydraco Key Facts

Pantydraco pronunciationpant-ee-drak-oh
Meaning of nameDragon of the Spring Valley
Type SpeciesPantydraco caducusestae
When it Lived208.5 to 201.3 MYA
Period & TimeLate Triassic
Length9.0 to 10.0 ft
Height9.0 ft
Weight0.06 tons
MobilityMoved on two legs
First Discovery1952 by Kermack and Robinson
Location of first findBonvilston in South Wales
First Described by1953 by K. A. Kermack
HolotypeBMNH P 24

Pantydraco Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

Let’s start at the beginning, with the name. Pantydraco, a name that might sound like it belongs in a fantasy novel, actually has a very grounded origin. The “panty” comes from Pant-y-ffynnon quarry, which translates to “valley of the spring” in Welsh. The “draco” comes from the Latin word for “dragon”, a mythical creature often associated with power and majesty. In essence, Pantydraco is the “dragon of the valley of the spring”.

In terms of taxonomy, it is part of the Sauropodomorpha family, and its type species is Pantydraco caducus. The ‘caducus’ here is in reference to the Latin word for ‘fallen’, as it’s thought that the type specimen fell into a pit. It’s important to note that there are no known subspecies or sister taxa within the genus.

The timeline of Pantydraco takes us back to the Late Triassic period, specifically the Rhaetian epoch. This epoch spanned from 208.5 to 201.3 million years ago. It’s a time that predates many of the dinosaurs we’re most familiar with, making it one of the earlier dinosaurs in the fossil record

Pantydraco caducus, a sauropodomorph from the Late Triassic or Early Jurassic of England, after Yates, 2003, pencil drawing, digital coloring
image by Nobu Tamura is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

The story of these fossils’ discovery begins in 1952, in the town of Bonvilston in South Wales. The first fossils were discovered by Kermack and Robinson, who unearthed a partial juvenile skeleton. This skeleton was initially thought to belong to Thecodontosaurus, another dinosaur from the same period. Further study revealed that it was a new species altogether, leading to its own genus, Pantydraco, in 2007. The holotype of this species is known as BMNH P 24.

The fossils include parts of a skull, a partial jawbone, vertebrae of the neck, an incomplete right pelvic bone, and partial forelimbs. These remains, especially those of a juvenile, have provided valuable insights into the life and characteristics of this dinosaur.

Pantydraco Size and Description

Before we delve into the details of Pantydraco’s size and physical characteristics, let’s take a moment to appreciate the unique nature of this dinosaur. Like all dinosaurs, it was a product of its time and environment, shaped by the forces of evolution in order to survive and thrive in the Late Triassic period.

Short description of Pantydraco

A moderately built dinosaur, it boasted a long tail that broadened at the hip joint and tapered towards the end. Its pointed head, equipped with a strong jaw, indicated a robust feeding mechanism. Furthermore, the forelimbs, designed for grasping, complemented the hindlimbs, which were adapted to support the creature’s body weight. Consequently, it appears that the dinosaur was primarily bipedal, moving around on its two hind legs. Additionally, its hands featured three movable digits, while the fourth digit was embedded. Moreover, it possessed well-developed claws, potentially useful for various purposes ranging from feeding to defense.

Size and Weight of Type Species

When it comes to size it was not among the largest dinosaurs, but it was by no means small. The juvenile fossils suggest a height ranging from about 0.7 to 1 meter (2 ft 4 in to 3 ft 3 in). Adults, on the other hand, are believed to have reached about 9.0 to 10.0 feet in length. The estimated weight for an average adult of this species is about 50 kilograms (0.06 tons). Thus, it was fairly gracile, a term used to describe its slender and lightweight build.

Cervical vertebrae of three selected sauropodomorphs: Pantydraco
image by Alejandro Otero is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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The Dinosaur in Detail

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve deeper into the unique features that set Pantydraco apart from other dinosaurs. One of its most striking features is its bipedalism. While many dinosaurs were capable of moving on two legs, its body structure suggests that it was primarily bipedal. This is indicated by the location of its center of mass near the pelvic bone, and the fact that its hindlimbs were longer and stronger than its forelimbs.

Yet another distinctive feature is its teeth. They were well developed, suggesting it had a robust feeding mechanism. This is consistent with its classification as an herbivorous dinosaur, as well-developed teeth would have been necessary to process plant material.

Finally, it’s worth noting the contribution of the holotype specimen, BMNH P 24, to our understanding of Pantydraco. This specimen, which includes parts of a skull, a partial jawbone, and vertebrae of the neck, has provided invaluable insights into the anatomy and lifestyle of this dinosaur. It’s a testament to the importance of fossil evidence in piecing together the story of life on Earth millions of years ago.

The Pantydraco in its Natural Habitat and Environment

The world of Pantydraco was vastly different from the one we know today. The Late Triassic period, spanning from 208.5 to 201.3 million years ago, was a time of significant geological and climatic changes. The supercontinent Pangaea was beginning to break apart, leading to the formation of new landmasses and ocean basins. This period was also marked by a warm and dry climate, with vast deserts covering large parts of the land.

As an herbivore, it would have relied on the vegetation available during this time for sustenance. The Late Triassic was characterized by the dominance of gymnosperms, a group of seed-producing plants that includes conifers and cycads. These plants would have formed the bulk of its diet. The dinosaur’s well-developed teeth suggest that it had a robust feeding mechanism capable of processing these tough plants.

Its bipedal locomotion would have been an advantage in this environment. Being able to move on two legs would have allowed it to reach higher vegetation and also move quickly to escape predators or search for food. It’s also possible that these dinosaurs lived in herds for protection and foraging efficiency, although this is purely speculative as no direct evidence of social behavior has been found in the fossil record.

Interesting Points about Pantydraco

  1. Pantydraco was initially known as Thecodontosaurus caducus. It was only after a re-examination of the many Thecodontosaurus species that many were regarded as synonyms or recognized as new animals, leading to the establishment of Pantydraco as a distinct genus.
  2. The fossils of Pantydraco were discovered in the Pantyffynnon quarry in Wales, which is also the inspiration behind its name.
  3. Despite the transition towards a plant-based diet, Pantydraco was still primarily bipedal, indicating a gradual evolution in locomotion among sauropodomorphs.
  4. The fossils are believed to be from a juvenile specimen, providing unique insights into the growth and development of these dinosaurs.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

In the vast expanse of prehistoric time, the Pantydraco, shared its existence with a captivating array of contemporary Pangaean dinosaurs. Among these were the Thecodontosaurus, Plateosaurus, and Scelidosaurus.

The Thecodontosaurus, originally thought to have been synonymous with this genus, was smaller in stature and may have been a competitor for resources.  Its smaller size could have allowed it to exploit different food sources or habitats, reducing direct competition. The Plateosaurus, an herbivore that was considerably larger, presents a fascinating contrast. This size difference could have led to a complex dynamic between the two herbivores.

The Scelidosaurus, with its armored body, stands as a testament to the diverse survival strategies employed by these ancient creatures. While the Pantydraco might have relied more on speed or agility, the Scelidosaurus was a walking fortress. Its defenses stands as a stark contrast to the Pantydraco’s approach to survival. This vivid tableau of coexistence paints a compelling picture of the world these dino’s lived in. A world where every dinosaur, large or small, played a part in the intricate web of prehistoric life.

Featured Image Credit: Nobu Tamura, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


(PDF) Pantydraco n. gen. for Thecodontosaurus caducus YATES, 2003, a basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Upper Triassic or Lower Jurassic of South Wales, UK

Anatomy of a basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic Hanson Formation of Antactica – Acta Palaeontologica Polonica

A revision of the problematic sauropodomorph dinosaurs from Manchester, Connecticut and the status of Anchisaurus Marsh – YATES – 2010 – Palaeontology – Wiley Online Library

A New Basal Sauropodomorph (Dinosauria: Saurischia) from Quebrada del Barro Formation (Marayes-El Carrizal Basin), Northwestern Argentina | PLOS ONENew dinosaur species from the Upper Triassic Upper Maleri and Lower Dharmaram formations of Central India | Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of The Royal Society of Edinburgh | Cambridge Corer

The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. We aim to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of Pantydraco.