SCIENCE

Nessie Who? Scotland's Real-Life 'Loch Monster' Unveiled

"One of the crown jewels of Scottish fossils."

06/09/2016 6:13 PM AEST | Updated September 6, 2016 18:13

There’s no scientific evidence for the famous Loch Ness Monster, but the fossilized remains of one of Scotland’s “real” monsters were recently unveiled in Edinburgh.

National Museums Scotland showed off what one expert called “one of the crown jewels” of fossils found in the nation: a nearly complete ichthyosaur known as the Storr Lochs Monster. 

When it was alive in the Middle Jurassic period some 170 million years ago, the dolphin-like creature ― part of a now-extinct family of reptiles ― was about 13 feet long and had a mouth filled with hundreds of teeth. 

People don’t realize that real sea monsters used to exist,” paleontologist Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, who worked on the fossil, told AFP. “They were bigger, scarier and more fascinating than the myth of Nessie.”

The museum called the specimen “the most complete skeleton of a sea-living reptile from the Age of Dinosaurs that has ever been found in Scotland.”

While the fossil was discovered 50 years ago in southern Skye, much of it was embedded in rock. Rather than attempt to pull it out and risk damaging the specimen, the fossil was kept in storage, National Geographic reported.

It was only recently that the University of Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland and energy company SSE joined forces to have the fossil carefully removed from the rock.

Natural-History-Conservation.com said the specimen was put together from about 140 separate pieces. 

“This task was like piecing together a large, heavy, three-dimensional jigsaw with no image for guidance,” the site noted. 

The site also detailed the way the fossil was prepared, and posted images that showed just how challenging the task was. 

“Ichthyosaurs like the Storr Lochs Monster ruled the waves while dinosaurs thundered across the land,” Brusatte said in a news release.

Their bones are exceptionally rare in Scotland, which makes this specimen one of the crown jewels of Scottish fossils. It’s all thanks to the keen eye of an amateur collector that this remarkable fossil was ever found in the first place, which goes to show that you don’t need an advanced degree to make huge scientific discoveries.

The fossil will be studied by scientists, then put on display. 

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