Jurassic Dinosaurs and other reptiles of the Isle of Skye

ancorrantrackscolour2Fossilised footprints and bone remains found on the Isle of Skye show that rarely-preserved Middle Jurassic dinosaurs once roamed there. With 15% of all mid-Jurassic discoveries worldwide made on Skye, Scotland’s ‘Dinosaur Isle’ has become an important geological heritage site in recent years. 165 million years ago, the island was part of the huge landmass of Laurentia, which also included North America. In fact, footprint evidence that matches the dinosaur species discovered on Skye have also been found in Wyoming. The areas on Skye where dinosaur remains and footprints are found today were once swampland, part of an estuary system.

Footprints from the world’s only example of a family of theropods – prolific carnivorous dinosaurs which walked on two legs – can be seen at Staffin museum.  Large footprints of another group of theropods can be seen on the beach at An Corran near Staffin. The world’s tiniest dinosaur footprint, made by another bipedal creature similar to Coelophysis, was discovered on Skye in 2004 by Dr Neil Clark from Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum. Large carnivorous creatures such as Megalosaurus and the herbivorous Stegosaurus are also known to have lived on the Dinosaur Isle. Efforts to preserve the Middle Jurassic specimens on Skye and Rassay are ongoing, with a current project aimed at bringing about the reporting, recording and rescuing of significant fossil finds.

This led to a new discovery, reported in January 2015, of a new species of ichthyosaur, unique to Scotland. Named Dearcmhara shawcrossi, the new specimen was identified from fossilised bones found in Skye in 1959.

Dearcmhara _FinalThe reconstruction above by the artist Todd Marshall, and provided by the PalAlba group, shows the 4-metre long marine reptile.

Selfie_NClarkDr Neil Clark, Curator of Palaeontology at the Hunterian Museum says: A popular group of animals with a simple iconic shape of footprint, dinosaurs from Scotland are continuing to increase our knowledge of the rare Middle Jurassic faunas and have placed Scotland firmly on the dinosaur map of the world. Our very own Dinosaur Isle (the Isle of Skye) has provided us with the bones and teeth of at least five different Middle Jurassic and one Lower Jurassic dinosaurs. Some of these are new to science and help us understand more on the early development of some groups of dinosaurs. I whole heartedly support the use of the three toed dinosaur footprint to represent Scotland and its contribution to our understanding of Middle Jurassic dinosaurs.