Despite its small size, one Scottish island has contributed an enormous amount to the study of dinosaurs.
The Isle of Skye, known as “Scotland’s Dinosaur Isle,” is blessed with an impressively high concentration of fossils, including some of the oldest dinosaur bones in the world, as well as the smallest dinosaur footprint ever discovered. This time it has thrown up something far scarier.
Prehistoric Scottish sea monster: The sea-faring Nessie?
The latest discovery belongs to a motorboat-sized sea creature, which commentators have inevitably likened to the mythical Loch Ness monster. Indeed, Scotland was home to varied populations of dinosaurs, and archaeologists always seem to dig up something new.
Stephen Brusatte, lead author of a study published in the Scottish Journal of Geology, wrote : “tantalizing bones and footprints of dinosaurs have been found in several Early-Middle Jurassic units, making Scotland one of the rare places in the world to yield dinosaurs from this under-sampled time.”
Although the sea monster lived approximately 170 million years ago, it isn’t technically a dinosaur. “Dinosaurs didn’t live in the ocean. And it’s the first of these sea-living, enormous, colossal top-of-the food-chain reptiles that’s ever been found in Scotland. It was about motorboat size … about 14 or 15 feet long,” continued Brusatte.
A truly Scottish reptile
The newly discovered predator has been named Dearcmhara shawcrossi, and used to hunt in the warm, shallow waters of the Scottish coast. You may be wondering how the fossil of a sea creature was discovered on land, and Brusatte explains that during the Jurassic period the Isle of Skye was largely underwater, located between two huge land masses which would later separate into Europe and North America.
The Dearcmhara shawcrossi is the “first uniquely Scottish marine reptile ever discovered and studied,” and its name is Scottish Gaelic for “marine lizard.” “Many other marine reptile fossils have been found in Scotland, but the vast majority of these have disappeared into private collections or been sold,” Brusatte continued.
The reptile is named after Brian Shawcross, the amateur archaeologist who uncovered the bones in 1959, before donating them to a museum so that research could be carried out.