Dinosaur hunting on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

When dinosaurs roamed on the Isle of Skye

Dinosaur fossils from the Middle Jurassic period are rare globally, but in the Isle of Skye they are abundant fossils and come in the form of footprints, and body fossils (such as teeth).  Finding fossil from the Jurassic period is important because fill gaps in our understanding of dinosaurs’ early evolution.

The Jurassic Period

The Ultimate Guide On The Major Dinosaur Groups – Gage Beasley

Around 174 – 164 million years ago dinosaurs roamed the earth but it’s extremely rare to find fossils dating that far back. What’s exciting about this period is it was a critical time in the evolution of dinosaurs, they were diversifying rapidly…

Dinosaurs as a group diversified rapidly in the Late Triassic (225 – 200 million years ago) and then underwent a second evolutionary surge in the Middle Jurassic (170 -160 million years ago).

Why the Isle of Skye?

Skye’s unique geology evidences a thriving terrestrial and Marine ecosystem. In the Middle Jurassic, Skye was a subtropical coastal margin, a lagoon full of marine life.

Tenacious to the Bone | Discover Magazine

Skye is part of the Inner Hebrides and features one of the most complete sequences of Middle Jurassic sedimentary rocks in the world, a series of formations, known collectively as the Great Estuarine Group. There are outcrops on the islands of SkyeRaasayEiggMuck, and Mull and on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. It comprises a series of shalesclays, and sandstones of non-marine origin. The best exposure is the largest island, Skye.

What evidence has been found?

Finds have included sauropod teeth and limb bones, theropod teeth, and vertebrae.  As well as dinosaurs, the finds have included sharks, salamanders, turtles, crocodylomorphs, and more.

But by far the most common dinosaur fossils are tracks. The presence of stegosaurs, sauropods, theropods, and thyreophorans was discovered through footprints at Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers Point) and the varying sizes of the prints hint at family groups.

Giant Dinosaur Footprints Found on Isle of Skye | Paleontology | Sci-News.com

In 2020 new dinosaur tracks were found at Brothers Point, where a stegosaur print that was hitherto unknown from Skye and which also represents the other oldest fossil records of this major dinosaur group from anywhere in the world.

Pterodactyl the flying reptile

Remains of 'world's largest Jurassic pterosaur' recovered in Scotland | Dinosaurs | The Guardian

In 2021, the remains of a huge flying reptile, a pterodactyl, were extracted from the beach directly below Chasing The Moon holiday cottage. It’s the largest of its kind ever discovered from the Jurassic era, and the most complete – it even has enamel on its teeth.

Fossil of giant flying reptile discovered on Scottish island | CNN

The pterodactyl fossil is now on exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London, but you will find a replica on display at the Dinosaur Museum in Staffin, Isle of Skye, which proudly boasts some of the most remarkable collections of dinosaur fossils in the world.

The Staffin Internationally Acclaimed Dinosaur Museum was established by Dugald Ross in 1976 when he was only a teenager. The species he identified in the area include Stegosaurus, Megalosaurus, Cetiosaurus, Hadrosaurus, and Ceolophysis.  You’ll get a first-hand account of the pterodactyl discovery from Dugald in the museum.

Staffin is a 6-minute drive (4km) from Chasing The Moon holiday cottage.    Rubha nam Braitherean (Brothers Point) where many of the recent tracks have been discovered is a short walk from the front door, making it an ideal location for a family holiday to explore Skye’s dinosaurs.

When and where was the first Scottish dinosaur fossil found?

In 1980 the first Scottish Dinosaur fossil reported was a single isolated footprint, which had fallen from the cliffs at Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point). Since then, several other tracks have been located across the island, the most famous being at Staffin and Duntulm.

Known now as the Dinosaur capital of Scotland, the rich Middle Jurassic fossil fauna of Skye is gradually being revealed with new discoveries continuing to be made.  These include some of the first fossil evidence of dinosaur parenting. Housed at Staffin Museum, a rock slab shows the footprints of baby dinosaurs, together with the print of an adult.

Skye is also home to fossil remains of flying reptiles, and confirmation of this will firmly place the island in the international dinosaur hall of fame.


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