A 170-million-year-old fossil found in Scotland is offering clues to the mysterious Middle Jurassic Period. Jim Drury reports.
This fossilised skeleton of an ancient sea predator could improve our understanding of the mysterious Middle Jurassic Period. The so-called Storr Lochs Monster was discovered on a beach on the Scottish Isle of Skye 50 years ago. New technology has finally enabled its extraction. SOUNDBITE (English) DR STEPHEN BRUSATTE, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, SAYING: "This is a fossil that is important internationally because it's one of the only good skeletons of one of these ocean reptiles from the middle of the Jurassic period. This was a time that was a really interesting moment in evolution. You had all kinds of new groups of dinosaurs and ocean reptiles getting their start, starting to spread around the world, the first Tyrannosaurs, even the first birds." An ichthyosaur, it ruled the waves 170 million years ago. With hundreds of sharp teeth, flippers, and a fin, it was a fearsome predator. Changes in the oceans' ecology saw it wiped out around the same time an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs. SOUNDBITE (English) DR STEPHEN BRUSATTE, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, SAYING: "There's over 100 bones there, so a whole bunch of the skeleton and now we get to get down to the fun business of actually studying it, figuring out what it is. Is it a new species? There's a good chance it's a new species because so little is known from this time period." Palaeontologists will study the fossil further before it goes on display to the Scottish public.