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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