Scotland has its very own prehistoric marine reptile — and, no, we’re not talking about Nessie, the mythical Loch Ness monster. Scientists have announced the discovery of the fossil remains of a dolphinlike seagoing reptile on Scotland’s Isle of Skye that lived about 170 million years ago and was about 14 feet (4.3 meters) long. The creature, named Dearcmhara shawcrossi, is a member of a group called ichthyosaurs that were among the dominant marine reptiles when dinosaurs ruled the land.
Dearcmhara was a moderate-sized ichthyosaur that swam in warm, shallow seas during the Jurassic Period and ate fish and squid. Its remains are incomplete, but the shape of a bone in its front flippers suggests it may have been an especially strong or fast swimmer, the researchers said. The genus name Dearcmhara (pronounced “jark vara”) is Scottish Gaelic for “marine lizard.” The species name honors amateur fossil hunter Brian Shawcross, who donated the specimen to a museum in the 1990s. The fossil was described in a study published Monday in the Scottish Journal of Geology.