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Discovery of an unusual fossil on the isle of Skye could significantly advance scientists’ understanding of prehistoric times in the region.
The fossil, from the jawbone of a small crocodile-like creature, was found near Duntulm Castle on the north coast of the island and is thought to be approximately 170 million years old.
Skye is one of the few places in the world where freshwater crocodile-like fossils from this period, known as the middle jurassic, can be found and the discovery will aid scientists’ understanding of prehistoric animals of this type.
Scientists examined the structure of the jawbone using high-resolution X-rays but cannot assign the fossil to a specific species owing to its incompleteness and size. However, they say the discovery of further fossils from Skye may be key to classifying this species.
The study is part of an on-going investigation of Skye’s fossil record, led by a consortium including staff and students of the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with scientists across Scotland, called the PalAlba Group.
The work, published in Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, was carried out in collaboration with researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Leicester and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It was funded by Marie Curie and the Royal Society.