Prehistoric creatures roamed this part of the world more than 190 millions years ago
A new scientific study has confirmed that bones discovered in Antrim belong to two different species of dinosaur.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, has confirmed that the bones – part of separate discoveries, one in the late 19th century, and the other in the 1980s – are definitely from prehistoric creatures.
“Bone histology and morphology demonstrates that two of these, both from the same locality in Co Antrim, demonstrably are from dinosaurs,” the study said.
One of the bones is the end of a left femur, and has been tentatively assigned as belonging to a scelidosaurus. Roaming the Earth over 190 million years ago, a scelidosaurus was a herbivore that walked on all fours.
The other bone was part of a left tibia of an undecided neotheropod (a group of dinosaurs which modern birds are descended from).
There is a rich history of documented dinosaur discoveries in Britain, but there have been few discoveries of remains this westerly in Europe.
“Some might attribute the apparent absence of dinosaur remains from Ireland to the activities of St Patrick, whose apparent success in casting out snakes is well known, but there is a more mundane explanation,” they said.
The geology of Ireland by and large prevents any dinosaur remains from being found, as most rocks on the island are just too old to contain fossils.
Aside from being a historic discovery for Ireland, this also has significance for the wider world as these bones belong to the Hettangian age, the earliest Jurassic period (roughly 201.3 million and 199.3 million years ago).
“This global rarity emphasises the potential significance of even these fragmentary remains from Northern Ireland for understanding the evolution and biogeography of early-Jurassic dinosaurs,” the article states.
So far, other Hettangian remains have only been found in England, Scotland and Arizona, and perhaps also in Morocco, South Africa and Antarctica.
Alongside this discovery, the researchers also examined additional specimens, which are now no longer considered dinosaurs. One is believed to belong to a large marine reptile, while the other is from a Palocene era species (around 66 million years old).
Many marine reptile bones have been recovered in Northern Ireland before, but the researchers note it’s unlikely the two dinosaur bones belong to that group due to their size, shape and structure.