Scientists name flying dinosaur after little girl who discovered it

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

In 2009, when Daisy Morris was just 5 years old, she discovered fossilized bones on Atherfield Beach on the Isle of Wight, England.

"She has a very good eye for tiny little fossils and found these tiny little black bones sticking out of the mud and decided to dig a bit further and scoop them all out," Daisy's mom, Sian Morris, told BBC News. "We are all very proud of her."

The blackened bones turned out to belong to a then-undiscovered species of small pterosaur, a flying reptile of the Lower Cretaceous period.

According to Science World Report, the Isle of Wight's coastline is slowly eroding. Had Daisy not discovered the remains, they would have eventually been washed away.

Now 9 years old, Daisy has just had that species named after her: Vectidraco daisymorrisae.

The species and name was announced in the scientific paper PLOS ONE published on Monday.

"We thank Daisy Morris for discovering the specimen, and all members of the Morris family for their thoughtful co-operation in ensuring that the specimen has been made available for scientific investigation," the paper's authors wrote.

Daisy had been fossil-hunting since the age of 3. After she came across the bones sticking out of the sand, her family approached fossil expert Martin Simpson of Southampton University with her finds.

'When Daisy and her family brought the fossilised remains to me in April 2009, I knew I was looking at something very special — and I was right," Simpson told the Daily Mail.

"The fossil turned out to be a completely new genus and species of small pterosaur, a flying reptile from 115 million years ago in the Lower Cretaceous period, which because of the island’s eroding coastline, would without doubt have been washed away and destroyed if it had not been found by Daisy."

"It just shows that, continuing a long tradition in palaeontology, major discoveries can be made by amateurs, often by being in the right place at the right time," Simpson added.

Daisy's fossils have been donated to the Natural History Museum. The museum recently named the Isle of Wight as the "dinosaur capital of Great Britain."

A children's book has been written about Daisy, too, called "Daisy and the Wight Dragon."