Page last updated at 00:30 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

Jurassic isle still has secrets

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Skye. Pic: Richard Sowersby/BBC
Dr Neil Clark said Skye is the site of significant finds about once every 10 years

Erosion will see fossils-rich Skye give up more secrets of the prehistoric past, an expert has predicted.

Dr Neil Clark, of University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, said it was one of the world's most important paleontological sites.

Its standing is underlined by the number of finds from the Middle Jurassic, about 170 million years ago.

Evidence of the earliest turtles known to live in water has also been discovered on the isle.

Why there are so few sites is something I have thought about, but have not come up with an answer
Dr Neil Clark
Hunterian Museum

Dr Clark said: "There is always something new turning up on Skye.

"People are making finds that are maybe not new in world-wide terms but to them on an individual basis, but once every 10 years something that is very important is found.

"Skye is a very important palaeontology site.

"The cliffs on the island are quite high and not easy to get to but bad weather and erosion means fossils are being added to the beaches every year."

In 2002, the discovery of the biggest, and best, dinosaur tracks ever found in Scotland were confirmed on Skye.

Research by Dr Clark and Dr Michael Brett-Surman, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, US, has suggested they were left by the same dinosaurs or a similar species that once roamed Wyoming.

Last week, the discovery of the earliest turtles known to live in water was reported in the Royal Society journals.

Vital clues

The 164 million-year-old reptile fossils were found on a beach on southern Skye.

The new species forms a missing link between ancient terrestrial turtles and their modern, aquatic descendants.

Dr Clark said the island has provided vital clues to life during the Middle Jurassic.

He said: "Skye is very important for world-wide palaeontology, mainly because of the number of Middle Jurassic sites around the world is not that great.

"Why there are so few sites is something I have thought about, but have not come up with an answer.

"I guess there has not been enough exposure of the right kind of rocks and maybe because of the higher sea levels of today."

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