Thursday, 9 November 2017

PrehiScotInktoberfest Day 9: The Dinosaurs of Skye

Jurassic Skye catalogues a rather mysterious period of earth's history - the Middle Jurassic. While the Early & Late Jurassic are well-represented in the fossil records in Britain, Germany, and the Americas, the Middle Jurassic is a bit more mysterious. Even though it isn't the most prolific of dinosaur-bearing stratographic areas, Skye is nonetheless one of the most important for this little-understood period of our world.

At least six genera of dinosaur are known from bones, footprints, eggshells, and other remains from the fossil beds of Skye. None have yet been formally named (booooo), and indeed some have not even been identified definitively as belonging to any particular species. As such, I tried to make them fairly generic - though for all we know, they could have been unusual & unique even for European dinosaurs.

So, left-to-right:

1. This wee beastie is based on a single tail vertebrae, believed to belong to a small-bodied coelurosaur, probably not unlike the famous Coelophysis (featured in the first episode of Walking With Dinosaurs).

2. Big "Dougie" here is a sauropod, based on a partial humerus & other bone fragments in the North of the island. Dougie is believed to be a Cetiosaur, one of the oldest sauropod families - Cetiosaurus was the first sauropod to be formally named - found all across Europe. Recently, a whole trackway of sauropod footprints on Skye made the news: whether they were made by Dougie's folk, or a related species, is up to speculation.

3. Very large, three-toed, menacingly clawed footprints were found near Staffin - footprints that could only have belonged to a large carnivore like Megalosaurus. Whether the beast which stalked what is now Skye was Megalosaurus itself, or a hitherto unknown relative, it was clearly not just small beasties that dwelt here.

4. All over Skye's coastline, you see tiny three-toed footprints too: these are given the generic name "Grallator," and they can be found throughout the world. Skye's "Grallator" was likely around the size of a capercaillie, & if it was anything like other theropods, it may have worn a fine coat of feathers.

5. A most surprising discovery was that of the radius & ulna of what appeared to be a small Thyreophoran - an armoured dinosaur. Most Thyreophorans, aside from Stegosaurs, were believed to be from the Cretaceous, so finding one from the Middle Jurassic was rare indeed - in fact, these bones represent some of the oldest Thyreophoran remains yet discovered.

6. While no bones for this creature have been discovered yet, many trackways of basal Ornithopods can be found from South America to China - and, of course, Skye. Whether they were locals, a great migration, or just passing neighbours, we at least know that at some point, dinosaurs walked on Skye.

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