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Dearcmhara, new ichthyosaur from Jurassic of Scotland
A new online paper:
Stephen L. Brusatte, Mark T. Young, Thomas J. Challands, Neil D. L.
Clark, Valentin Fischer, Nicholas C. Fraser, Jeff J. Liston, Colin C.
J. MacFadyen, Dugald A. Ross, Stig Walsh, and Mark Wilkinson (2015)
Ichthyosaurs from the Jurassic of Skye, Scotland.
Scottish Journal of Geology (advance online publication)
Fossils of Mesozoic vertebrates are rare in Scotland, particularly
specimens of marine reptiles such as plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs. We
describe a suite of ichthyosaur fossils from the Early to Middle
Jurassic of Skye, which to our knowledge are the first ichthyosaurs
from Scotland to be described and figured in detail. These fossils
span approximately 30 million years, from the Sinemurian to the
Bathonian, and indicate that ichthyosaurs were a major component of
Scottish marine faunas during this time. The specimens include
isolated teeth that could represent the most northerly known
occurrences of the widespread Sinemurian species Ichthyosaurus
communis, a characteristic component of the famous Lyme Regis faunas
of England, suggesting that such faunas were also present in Scotland
during the Early Jurassic. An associated humerus and vertebrae from
Toarcian–Bajocian-aged deposits are named as a new genus and species
of basal neoichthyosaurian, Dearcmhara shawcrossi. The taxonomic
affinities of this taxon, which comes from a critical but poorly
sampled interval in the fossil record, suggest that
non-ophthalmosaurid neoichthyosaurians dominated European assemblages
around the Early–Middle Jurassic boundary, and were later replaced by
ophthalmosaurids, whose radiation likely took place outside Europe.
Many of these specimens were collected by amateurs and donated to
museum collections, a co-operative relationship essential to the
preservation of Scotland’s fossil heritage.