Newly discovered dinosaur species named after 5-year-old

Newly discovered dinosaur species named after 5-year-old

21 Mar 2013

A newly-discovered dinosaur species has been named after the little girl who stumbled across its remains when she was just five years old.

Palaeontologists announced this week that fossilised remains found on a stretch of Isle of Wight beach in 2008 had been finally identified as a new species of flying dinosaur.

The remains were discovered by Daisy Morris, who, now aged nine, has amassed a collection of fossils and animal remains so extensive it led one expert to describe her bedroom as "resembling a natural history museum."

It was on a family walk along along Atherfield Beach on the south coast of the Isle of Wight that sharp-eyed Daisy spotted the remains and realised it was a fossil.

The family took it to dinosaur expert Martin Simpson, who recognised its potential importance.

For the past five years experts Darren Naish and Gareth Dyke have painstakingly studied the fossil, focusing on even the most smallest of details, before eventually publishing their findings this week.

They revealed the creature was roughly the size of a crow and was a previously unknown type of pterosaur.

The family has donated the remains to the Natural History Museum.

And when it came to naming the creature the experts looked to its young finder for inspiration, officially dubbing it Vectidraco Daisymorrisae.

(Artist's impression of Vectidraco Daisymorrisae by Mark Witton)

A children's book has even been written about her as a result - called Daisy and the Wight Dragon - with the title based on the translation of Vectidraco or Dragon of the Wight.

Daisy says: "When I told my friends about it they said it was cool".

Daisy is well known for her unusual collection.

While many girls her own age choosing to cover their wall with posters of pop stars, Daisy has dedicated her room to the study of animals and dinosaurs.

Mum Sian, 44, said: "She is fascinated by it. If we are in the car and we go past an animal that has died, she'll ask me to stop so we can pick it up and she can take it home.

"She'll put them under a crate in the garden and let it decompose. The flies lay eggs and maggots clean the skeleton, then she collects the bones.

"If your child is good at drawing or dancing and they enjoy it, then you encourage them and this is what Daisy enjoys, so her Dad and I have never said eurgh, we've tried to encourage her.

"Rather than say that's disgusting, we'd like to help her find out about things.

"She's fascinated and we're very proud of her."

When she was just six Daisy contacted BBC Springwatch to ask the experts how long it would take for a dead mole she had found to decompose.

(Diagram showing where the fossil discovered by Daisy Morris would have come from)

The far-from-squeamish youngster also has the skull of bull, she keeps in the living room, and several mummified animals, including a frog and a shrew.

Knowing of her unusual interest, neighbours sometimes bring round the bodies of birds their cats have killed, while friends and relatives will sometimes animals remains to her in the post to add to her collection.

Martin Simpson, who himself has a collection of 50,000 specimens he hopes to soon house in a purpose-built centre on the Isle of Wight, said Daisy's discovery had been vital.

It's likely that if she had not picked this up, it would have washed away that day and might never have been found.

"It shows how amateurs and academics can work together and make some really important discoveries.

"She is a fascinating and unique girl. She has an amazing collection of real and fossilised bones, shells, skulls and teeth and her bedroom now resembles a natural history museum."

And Daisy doesn't plan to stop any time soon.

"I just want to keep collecting things," she said.

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