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New Marine Reptile Species from Jurassic Period Identified

Ichthyosaurus Fossil
(Photo : Flickr / Archbob / CC)

Paleontologists announced that they have identified a new marine reptile species that swam and hunted in the waters of Scotland, NPR has learned.

The researchers based their findings on fossil dating back to the Jurassic Period that were unearthed in the Isle of Skye.

The study on the new species was carried out by a team of paleontologists and researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum, Skye's Staffin Museum, National Museums Scotland and the Scottish National Heritage, BBC reported.

According to Dr. Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, the animal, which was named as the Dearcmhara, belongs to class of aquatic reptiles known as ichthyosaurus and existed from the Early to Middle Jurassic Era.

The Dearcmhara appears like a large predatory fish with an elongated and thin snout. It measures a total length of 14 feet.

Brusatte pointed that although the animal lived during the Jurassic Period, it is not a dinosaur. However, he described it as an apex predator during that time as it hunted down large fish and other marine reptiles.

"It looks like a dinosaur, but it isn't technically a dinosaur," he said according to NPR. "Dinosaurs didn't live in the ocean."

"And it's the first one of these sea-living, enormous, colossal top-of-the-food-chain reptiles that's ever been found in Scotland," he added. "It was about motorboat size...about 14 or 15 feet long or so."

The Dearcmhara's fossil, which consisted of a skull, spinal column, upper arm bone and teeth, was first discovered around 50 years ago by Bryan Shawcross, an amateur fossil hunter. Instead of keeping it for himself or selling it to private collectors, he decided to donate the fossil to museum in Glasgow.

Brusatte said that the animal was only recently identified due to the lack of paleontologists in Scotland during the discovery of the fossil.

But that's all about to change since Scotland is now teeming with experts from the field of paleontology. As pointed out by Dr. Nick Fraser of the National Museums Scotland, the study on Dearcmhara exemplifies how various scientific organizations can work together on a common project.

"Not only is this a very special discovery, but it also marks the beginning of a major new collaboration involving some of the most eminent paleontologists in Scotland," he told BBC. "It has brought together key organizations, local collectors on Skye and specialists from further afield."

"We are excited by the program of work and are already working on additional new finds," Fraser added.

Tags Species, Fossil, Dinosaur, Jurassic Period, Science

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