Friday, 8 April 2016

Going for a Walk in the Jurassic.

There are few places in the UK that can make you feel as clasped in the hand of the landscape as Skye. Frequently, I lift my head from the incessant search for fossils to drink in the shamelessly rich view across the Cuillins, some of Scotland's most stunning mountains.

The Cuillins (Image: Wikimedia)

But go back to the Middle Jurassic, and those sharp sgurrs wouldn't be there. Instead, you would be looking across a series of freshwater and brackish lagoons. There would still be some higher ground in the distance, and mainland Scotland's ancient rocks would be behind you. But rather than seals watching you curiously from the bays and inlets, turtles raise their heads to take a look as you walk by. Underfoot, you may flush out some little insect-eating mammals, about the size of mice or rats.

Were there dinosaurs? Well yes, including massive sauropods, stegosaurs and theropods. Instead of seagulls screeching overhead, pterosaurs arc through the sky, while out in deep waters swim ichthyosaurs and fish.

Now and then a flash flood washes debris from inland out into the water, where it would sink and preserve. This includes the bodies of animals, some of them preserving so well that we find pieces of their bodies 170 million years later.

The earth in the Middle Jurassic (Image from here)
As the Atlantic ocean continued to expand, what would become North America sailed off into the sunset, breaking away from Scotland and leaving volcanos in it's wake. These volcanos smothered the Mesozoic rocks in dark basalt pillows and sheets.

The Jurassic now pokes out along the edges of the island, like feet from under bedcovers. This means we only get a glimpse at the diversity of animals that must have existed on Skye back then; a sample of the many species and their habitats. The rest of the picture lies buried under younger rocks, or lost altogether through geological processes. Because of this, will never know everything about the ecosystem of Jurassic Skye, but as palaeontologists, we'll do our damned best to find out.


  1. "The Jurassic now pokes out along the edges of the island, like feet from under bedcovers."
    :-) Thank you,Ilove that Image and I think I'll steal it.

    1. Lol - well I'm glad you liked it, feel free to quote me ;)