The teacher’s decades-old discovery on the coastline of Northern Ireland, the island’s first dinosaur discovery


People often come across coins, shells and dustbins, but a teacher in Northern Ireland made a discovery that would go down in history.

In the 1980s, the late Roger Byron, a schoolteacher and fossil collector, found several unknown fossils on the east coast of County Antrim. He lived on them for many years before donating them Ulster Museum in Belfast.

The mystery revolved around what fossils could be until a team of researchers with the University of Portsmouth and Queen’s University Belfast confirmed that they were fossilized dinosaur bones.

According to the research team’s article, this month’s Proceedings of Geologists’ Association, the 200 million-year-old fossil is “the first remains from anywhere in Ireland”.

“This is an extremely important discovery,” Mike Sims, a paleontologist at the National Museum NI, who led the team of researchers, said in a news release on Tuesday. “The great rarity of such fossils is here because most rocks in Ireland are the wrong age for dinosaurs, either too old or too young, making it almost impossible to confirm the dinosaurs on these shores.”

Researchers wrote in their article that folklore attributes the apparent absence of dinosaurs to the activities of St. Patrick from Ireland, which is attributed to the snakes being ejected from Ireland. But the lack of fossil dinosaur bones is only due to geology, he said. Rocks around the country are of the wrong age or type.

“Finding an Irish dinosaur may seem a disappointing task but, nevertheless, several potential candidates have been identified and described here for the first time,” the article stated.

Researchers Robert Smith of the University of Portsmouth and Professor David Martill of Queens University Belfast, Dr. Analyzed bone fragments with a high-resolution 3D digital model of fossils created by Patrick Collins.

The researchers originally believed the bones were from the same animal, but then determined that they were from two different dinosaurs.

In the news release, Smyth said, “Analyzing the shape and internal structure of the bones, we realized that they belong to two different animals.”

“One is very dense and strong, one typical of an armored plant-eater. The other is thin, with thin bone walls and features found only in fast-moving two-legged dinosaurs called theropods.”

According to the researchers both fossils were fragments of leg bones of animals. One was a part of a four-legged plant eater called Scalidosaurus. The second was part of a meat-eating tibia with two legs similar to sarcosorus.

According to the magazine article, the beach where the fossils were found is covered in round pieces of basalt and white limestone. It noted that the fossils in that area are usually sparse and are heavily eroded.

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Sims said, “The two dinosaur fossils that Roger Byron found were probably alive or dead at sea, drowned in the Jurassic sea, where they were buried and fossilized.”

This discovery helps shed light on the lives of dinosaurs that roamed millions of years ago.

“Scalidosaurus continues to roam in the seawater, and I’m beginning to think that it must have been a coastal animal, perhaps seaweeds like sea iguana are still eating today,” Martill said.

The Ulster Museum, which was closed due to coronovirus restrictions, plans to display the bones, the news release said.

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