Nope, I’m not going to foist on my faithful readers some cheesy rendition of a T. rex with a leprechaun hat clutching a pint of green beer. I mean, it couldn’t even raise the brew to its mouth. Besides, no self-respecting tyrant lizard would be caught dead in a hat like that. Can I offer you a pair of Irish dinosaurs instead?
But first, pop quiz: Name two dinosaurs that lived in what would become modern day Ireland.
Time’s up! Give yourself about a thousand gold stars if you got even one because…(drum roll) the first dinosaurs determined to have tromped across Ireland were only announced toward the end of last year. You’d think there would have been a herd of other dinosaur finds in Ireland long before that, right? I mean, scientists have been unearthing various specimens in England for well over 200 years. Not to be outdone, Scotland and Wales have also contributed dinosaur fossils to the paleontological record. Here’s a flashy map of dinosaur discoveries in the British Isles.
So why did Irish dinosaurs prove elusive?
It’s all due to the age of the rocks. Large swaths of Ireland are geologically too young or old to have dinosaur remains.
Thankfully, we can now celebrate having not one but two Irish dinosaurs dating to the Early Jurassic of 200 million years ago. One is a little-known plant muncher, Scelidosaurus harrisonii. It’s an “armored” Ornithiscian, and it needed all the protection it could get, seeing as the second Irish dinosaur from this time period is a predatory theropod akin to Sarcosaurus.
Not surprisingly, fossils representing Scelidosaurus’ kinfolk have also been found along England’s “Jurassic Coast” as far back as the mid-nineteenth century. David Norman recently published a thorough description and analysis of Scelidosaurus harrisonii.
But like as not, you’re more interested in the three-meter long meat-eater, right? Sarcosaurus skeletons found to date are far from complete. Nonetheless, it is recognized as a “small” theropod, likely sporting a mouth full of respectable fangs. It’s easy to envision it using powerful thigh muscles to dart across the Irish countryside in pursuit of its prey and sink in its claws and teeth.
Personally, I’m rooting for those armored Irish Ornithiscians.