Another new ichthyosaur in the golden age of Jurassic discovery

Jan 14, 2015

Image: Todd Marshall/Reutres

By Stephen Moss

Jurassic Park is alive and well and found in Scotland. A 4.2 metre ichthyosaur fossil on the Isle of Skye has been identified as a new species of sea-going reptile, dating back roughly 170 million years – slap-bang in the middle of the Jurassic period.

The creature – named Dearcmhara, Scottish Gaelic for “marine lizard” – apparently hunted fish and its fellow reptiles in what in those days were nice warm seas off Scotland’s west coast.

It has been described as a cross between a dolphin and a crocodile – although given its appearance and location, Nessie’s distant ancestor might be more appropriate.

The timing of Dearcmhara’s appearance is perfect – and not just because Jurassic World is out soon. This is also an election year, and so the discovery of a “uniquely Scottish” ichthyosaur must be cause for nationalist celebration.

Identifying the reptile was not easy: scientists at the University of Edinburgh and the National Museums Scotland had to piece it together from a few fossilised fragments of teeth and vertebrae – like doing a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing.


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5 comments on “Another new ichthyosaur in the golden age of Jurassic discovery

  • Och, I see they have found Nessie at last. Now maybe another wee dram to celebrate.

    Interesting that this particular ichthyosaur has comparatively small eyes, supportive of the thesis that it hunted in shallower, brighter water.

    Finally, I wish sources like the “Guardian” would stop making stupid “like a cross between a dolphin and a crocodile” anologies. The “Crocoduck” mob are probably all over it already.



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  • I find myself guilty of the dolphin equivalent on anthropomorphising (porpoiseomorphising?). I look at these guys and I always image them being cheeky, curious playful creatures (some anthropomorphising here), jumping out of the water, for all I know of course they could have been cool minded hunters that would as soon bite your arm off as splash water at you at Sea World. Would have made flipper more entertaining though “Flipper the smugglers are getting away and Bud is trapped in a net…Dear God no flipper, no, don’t eat Bud! NO!!!!”



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  • 5
    zzzz2222 says:

    Wow. It looks like a proto-swordfish.

    I cannot wait for the field of genetics to recreate these beautiful creatures. I am hoping that the latest Siberian Mammoth will have enough viable DNA to bring it back to life. I know its been possible to remove some inhibitory genes in chickens who then go into retrograde and “grow teeth” just like their ancient relative, T-Rex.



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