Scaat Craig

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Scaat Craig, a section of the Longmorn Burn near Elgin, has been a site for fossil collecting since the 1820’s. Although there are many sites in the Moray Firth area where fossil fish have been found, Scaat Craig was one of the first to be discovered. It was extensively worked during the 1830’s and 1840’s and was featured in the works of several famous historical geologists such as Hugh Miller and Louis Agassiz (1807 – 1873). The site however is now very overgrown.

The fossils are found in rocks that are Upper Old Red Sandstone in age (late Devonian). At this time, the Moray Firth area lay in a basin that was bounded to the south by a mountain range. The rocks at Scaat Craig are generally sandstones and conglomerates, formed when powerful rivers and flash floods carried large amounts of sediment from the mountains into the surrounding basins and valleys. At Scaat Craig, it is the sandstones that have yielded the fossils.

The rocks are friable, which unfortunately means that fossilised material is also easily fragmented. This has hampered the interpretation of the evolution of the fish at the site as the fish were usually found as fragments. However, the site has yielded abundant remains that include: Bothriolepis paradoxa (type locality), B. major, Cosmacanthus malcolmsoni (type locality), Conchodus ostrieformis (type locality), Traquairosteus pustulatus, Psammosteus cf. falcatus, Rhizodonts, Holoptychius nobilissimus and H. giganteus.

Incomplete amphibian remains have also been found which represent some of the earliest known tetrapod specimens. These remains were collected in the early days, but their significance was not realised until recent work on the collections.