What at first looked like a pothole in a slab of rock turned out to be one of the most exciting events of last year. Skye attracted international attention when a team of scientists from Edinburgh University discovered yet another collection of dinosaur footprints, this time more numerous and distinct than previous finds. In addition to those discovered at Staffin Bay, this collection of footprints near Duntulm Castle at the north end of the island, is the largest ever found in Scotland. The site has even been dubbed the “dinosaur disco” due to the large number of them and their jumbled, zigzag appearance.
The discovery is significant in that it is believed it will help provide valuable information about these herbivore sauropods and expand our understanding of their lives. Until now they were thought to be purely land-dwelling creatures but evidence now suggests they may have spent more time in coastal regions than was previously assumed.
As yet the specific identity of the sauropod (Greek for “lizard foot”) is not known but the footprints give evidence of creatures which grew to at least 15 metres in length and weighed more than ten tonnes. Indeed some of the footprints measure up to 70cm in diameter! They are most likely to be distant relatives of brontosaurus and diplodocus and were by far the largest creatures to ever roam the earth.
Although a great deal of evidence of prehistoric life on Skye had previously been identified, fossils from the middle Jurassic period, around 170 million years ago, are extremely rare. Staffin Museum at Ellishadder offers fascinating insight into Skye’s Jurassic history and is well worth a visit. The tiny museum is curated and run by Dugald Ross and hosts a fine collection of fossils, bones and other prehistoric finds from around the island.
Skye can look forward to hosting palaeontologists and scientists from around the world as they continue to unravel the enigma of the dinosaur.