Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Golden and white-tailed eagles, otters, red deer and seals: forget the SkyeFive and other Scottish wildlife you’re familiar with. Venture through the Isle of Skye 170 million years ago you’ll find a vastly different wildlife scene.
In 2015, fossilised footprints revealed the island once homed creatures of the Middle Jurassic era — where 15% of all the world’s mid-Jurassic discoveries exist. By 2018, a second discovery unearthed approximately 50 ‘new’ dinosaur tracks throughout the isle. Among them, car tyre-size prints belonging to sauropods — members of the saurischian family.
Long-necked, small headed and pillar-like legs, the herbivorous sauropods spanned a mighty 15 metres in length and weighed up to 10 tonnes. Unsurprising then that saurischians include some of the largest mammals to ever walk the planet, such as the sauropod’s more famous cousin: the brontosaurus.
But these herbivores didn’t roam the island alone... Three-toed, hind leg tracks indicate carnivorous theropods skulked across the Isle of Skye, too. Likely belonging to a one-tonne dinosaur that reached five to six metres in size, researchers believe a primitive cousin of the T-Rex left these behind.
Matched to footprints in Wyoming, the United States, these tracks confirm that the isle was once part of a larger landmass called Laurentia. Located closer to the equator, a mid-Jurassic era Isle of Skye was world’s apart from the Scotland you know and love today.
“This was a subtropical kind of paradise world, probably kind of like Florida or Spain,” says Dr Stephen Brusatte, palaeontologist and co-author of the study from the University of Edinburgh in conversation with the Guardian. “[These prints] were made in a shallow lagoon – dinosaurs walking in very shallow water.”
Ready to take a walk through history? Join us on a SKYEFARI adventure* to find these dinosaur footprints — located at Rubha nam Brathairean (Brother’s Point) on the Trotternish Peninsula.
*We’re pleased to announce that the only therapod descendents you’ll stumble across on the island today are some (thankfully, less terrifying) modern bird species!