Thursday, 23 November 2017
PrehiScotInktoberfest Day 23: Scleromochlus taylori
The unforgiving desert of Triassic... Lossiemouth.
The denizens of Lossimouth's Sandstone formations were used to a far warmer climate than today: this was the last age of Pangaea, the great supercontinent, before it began its great schism into the continents of today. Scotland was situated far enough from the coast that it was subsumed by the great hot deserts that stretched across much of Pangaea's interior. Life was harsh, and the creatures of the day had to survive the heat of the day and the cold of the night.
Scleromochlus taylori ("Taylor's Hard Fulcrum") was such a survivor. Only the size of a small bird, it's somewhat miraculous that remains of this wee beastie have been found at all: many of the seven specimens found at Lossiemouth are impressions rather than true fossils, and though none are complete, enough remains to get a rough idea of the creature's outline. It was a weird wee beastie: picture a lizard with kangaroo legs, and possibly covered in patches of fluff, and you get Sclero. One curiousity is at least two specimens were found in such close proximity to each other that they had to have been huddled together for warmth, suggesting a degree of gregariousness, not to mention latent cuteness.
Sclero is particularly notable as a stem Ornithodiran - the root from which dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and modern birds all derive - and it's easy to see the resemblances. While theories abound as to the reason for its extremely long legs - some render them with flying squirrel-esque skin folds, others with semi-aquatic features - given the climate, it seems likely that the beasties lived much like nocturnal desert-dwelling animals. It's easy to imagine them hopping about in the twilight like modern jerboas.
"Whit's eh time?"
"Sun's still oot. Back tae sleep. & quit snoring'."