There are undoubtedly millions of kids around the world who love dinosaurs, but there are far fewer who explore remains and fossils themselves. However in 2009, then 5-year-old Daisy Morris was walking along a beach at the Isle of Wight in the UK when she stumbled across “tiny little black bones sticking out of the mud and decided to dig a bit further and scoop them all out.” After Daisy and her parents consulted with an expert, the fossil was determined to be the 115 million-year-old remains of an entirely unknown species of small flying reptile—or pterosaur—that has now been dubbed Vectidraco daisymorrisae.
The Vectidraco daisymorrisae is about the size of a crow, and is a genus of pterosaur that existed at the same time as dinosaurs in the Lower Cretaceous period. Martin Simpson, the fossil expert at the University of Southampton who Daisy brought the fossilized remains to, believes that were it not for the budding palentologist the pterosaur would have been washed away with the eroding coastline, never to be discovered. Simpson emphasized that Daisy’s discovery underscores how “major discoveries can be made by amateurs, often by being in the right place at the right time.”
A study of the pterosaur was published this week in PLOS ONE, in which the genus was officially named Vectidraco daisymorrisae, or “dragon from the Isle of Wight,” with a tribute to Daisy Morris. With this impressive discovery under her belt—and a children’s book already written about her experiences—Daisy’s interests in animals and fossils has only grown. Her bedroom reportedly resembles a natural history museum, filled with her ongoing discoveries. As for the Vectidraco daisymorrisae, the family has donated the fossil to the more formal Museum of Natural History in London.