The ancestors of Nessie lived on Skye

Dr Tom Challands and Dr Steve Brusatte pose by sauropod tracks on Skye (credit Mark Wilkinson)

Do you know of the Isle of Skye? It’s the largest of the northern Inner Hebrides, it’s located off the coast of Scotland and it’s characterized by a mild, wet and windy weather. Skye was ruled by the Norse before and then for a long time by the Clan MacLeod (whose 30th chief is Hugh Magnus MacLeod since 2007), long before being trampled by a human foot the island, which 170 million years ago enjoyed a climate much warmer than today, was populated by a different kind of residents.

Sediment cast of sauropod dinosaur print on Skye (credit Steve Brusatte)

Just a year ago Steve Brusatte and Tom Challands, paleontologists from the University of Edinburgh, announced the discovering of hundreds of footprints left by sauropods, dinosaurs colossal weight of 100 tons each with a height of 10.5 meters and a length 30 meters lived in the Mesozoic. The sauropods of Skye were close relatives of the brontosaurus and diplodochs and some suspect could be distant ancestors of “Nessie”, if the famous Loch Ness “monster” really exists.

Artist's impression of sauropod dinosaurs on Skye (credit Jon Hoad)

Even if they were not, those discovered on Skye remain traces of sauropods exceptional, being the first ever found in Scotland. Moreover, Skye is not new to give similar surprises: in 1959 an amateur fossil hunter, Brian Shawcross, discovered the fossil bones of another dinosaur, this time marine, a species hitherto unknown then called Dearcmhara, belonging to the family of the ichthyosaurs.

The headlands but also the seabed around the Isle of Skye promise to reveal more treasures: who knows whether, among them, we will find the missing link between dinosaurs and the strange creature in 566 AD attacked and killed an inhabitant of the coasts of the River Ness, after crawling out from the water, according to contemporary historians? The same creature, perhaps, that from the Thirties of last century, many have claimed to have spotted and someone has also filmed or photographed (although some of them have proven false, like the famous “surgeon’s photo” taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson in 1936).

Tags: Unsolved mysteries, Sciences, Paleontology