A ferocious dolphin-like predator that lived 170 million years ago has been uncovered by a Scottish museum after it lay buried for half a century. Called the Storr Lochs Monster, the predator was an ancient reptile belonging to the family of ichthyosaurs that grew around four meters.
The University of Edinburgh researchers add that the fossilized skeleton of the Storr Lochs Monster, discovered in 1966 on the Isle of Skye, is the most complete one of a sea-living reptile that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs that came out of Scotland. Based on this, the researchers found that the reptile had a long, pointed head that contained hundreds of teeth shaped like cones, which it used to prey on fish and squid.
Like other ichthyosaurs, the Storr Lochs Monster ruled the oceans. Although the Isle of Skye is one of the few sites across the globe where fossils from the Middle Jurassic Period can be excavated, the bones of ichthyosaurs are still rare in Scotland. However, the fact that predator fossils are exceptionally rare makes the specimen one of the crown jewels of Scottish fossils, the researchers state.
Since it was discovered by SSE Storr Lochs Power Station manager Norrie Gillies, who died in 2011 at age 93, it has been preserved in the storage facility of National Museums Scotland. Now, in collaboration with the museum and energy company SSE, the university’s researchers can unveil a clearer picture of the monster.
The fossil still needs further analysis performed by paleontologists, the team asserts. Once the predator has been fully understood, experts can finally understand how ichthyosaurs evolved during the Middle Jurassic Period.
The public can see the fossil at SSE’s new visitor center at the soon-to-open Pitlochry Dam and other locations once the experts have analyzed it completely.