First Scots ichthyosaur discovered on Isle of Skye

First Scots ichthyosaur discovered on Isle of Skye
First Scots ichthyosaur discovered on Isle of Skye

Dr. Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, and colleagues have identified a new species of ichthyosaur based on partial skeleton pieces that have been revealed over the last 56 years. The dinosaur has no relationship to the Loch Ness Monster.

The new species resembles most ichthyosaurs that existed 170 million years ago but it has definite body proportions that give the animal the appearance and probably the swimming ability of modern dolphins. The new species is called Dearcmhara shawcrossi. The genus name means marine lizard and the species name honors Brian Shawcross who found the first of the animal’s fossils in 1959 on the beach at Bearreraig Bay.

The Isle of Skye and most of the area surrounding this part of Scotland and Great Britain was under water during the time that the animal lived. Over the last 56 years bits and pieces of the marine dinosaur including the teeth, vertebrae, an upper arm bone, and the skull have been recovered. The animal was at least 14 feet in length. This animal would have been a top marine predator during the time that it lived.

This is the first ichthyosaur that can be definitely associated with Scotland. All of the normal people who found bones on the beach and the professional researchers contributed the bones they found to the National Museums Scotland. In these days of low funding for fossil discoveries and high prices paid for fossils by private collectors the selfless work of everyone involved in the discovery of the new species is heralded as an achievement in cooperation and respect for the ancient treasures of the past.


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