50 years after its discovery, a Jurassic sea monster resurfaces

Imprisoned in the rock for 50 years, a Jurassic super-predator has been extracted and then studied. The 170 million year old sea monster is now considered a ‘jewel in the crown of Scottish prehistory’.

Discovered in 1966 on the Isle of Skye, in Scotland, the beast was peacefully biding its time, frozen in the rock, in the depths of the Scottish National Museum. Kept in a safe place until it can be assessed, the one nicknamed « the sea monster of Loch Storr », 170 million years old, was finally exfiltrated from the Museum’s reserves. Steve Brusatte and his colleagues Nick Fraser and Stig Walsh then identified the animal as a ichthyosaur, a family of marine reptiles that roamed the oceans in the Middle Jurassic, around 170 million years ago. A period that unfortunately leaves very few fossil traces.

Four meters long, a big belly, a pointed head adorned with hundreds of cone-shaped teeth and two big bulging eyes; the researchers have, thanks to the fossil remains, been able to reconstruct a clear image of the enormous creature, and the least we can say is that the beast was impressive. “People are obsessed with the myth of the Loch Ness Monster which is totally false. But, they don’t realize that real sea monsters existed! « , Explain Steve Brusatte. « They were bigger, scarier, more fascinating than Nessie, » says the paleontologist.

Ichthyosaurs abruptly disappeared from the oceans tens of millions of years before the last dinosaurs, after 157 million years of reign in the high seas. Global warming of the planet seems to be responsible for this sudden disappearance, but the question remains opened. The discovery of the « sea monster of Loch Storr » will allow to know more, and why not to lift the veil on this mysterious slaughter.


Source: AFP

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