Scotland has a reputation when it comes to loch-dwelling beasts. But while old Nessie is the stuff of myth and legend, the "Storr Lochs Monster" is the real deal.
The fossilized skeleton of the Storr Lochs Monster was discovered by an amateur fossil-hunter on the Isle of Skye in 1966 near a power plant. This 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) sea-living reptile from the Middle Jurassic Period is one of the most complete skeletons from the ichthyosaur family ever discovered in Scotland.
But despite the rarity of the find, it’s been held in National Museums Scotland’s storage facility for 50 years.
"For half a century the museum kept the fossil safe and secure, but there wasn't the expertise to free it from the very dense rock that surrounded it, or the expertise to study it," palaeontologist Steve Brusatte, from the University of Edinburgh's School of Geosciences, told AFP.
"But now we finally have that expertise... and have realized that this skeleton is the most complete fossil of a sea reptile ever found in Scotland,” he added.
A team of palaeontologists at the University of Edinburgh are now studying the fossil. Although it’s early days for the researchers, they believe that this discovery could shed some light on how ichthyosaurs evolved during the Middle Jurassic Period, especially since very little fossil evidence comes from this time.
After the palaeontologists have taken all they can from the beast, the fossil of the Storr Lochs Monster will be put on public display across a number different locations, including the new center at the SSE power plant in Pitlochry Dam near where it was discovered.
“Ichthyosaurs like the Storr Lochs Monster ruled the waves while dinosaurs thundered across the land. Their bones are exceptionally rare in Scotland, which makes this specimen one of the crown jewels of Scottish fossils,” Dr Brusatte said in a statement. “It’s all thanks to the keen eye of an amateur collector that this remarkable fossil was ever found in the first place, which goes to show that you don’t need an advanced degree to make huge scientific discoveries.”