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(Reuters) - Scotland has its very own prehistoric marine reptile - and, no, we're not talking about Nessie, the mythic Loch Ness monster. Scientists have announced the discovery of the fossil remains of a dolphin-like seagoing reptile on Scotland's Isle of Skye that lived about 170 million years ago and was about 14 feet (4.3 meters) long.
The creature, named Dearcmhara shawcrossi, is a member of a group called ichthyosaurs that were among the dominant marine reptiles when dinosaurs ruled the land. Ichthyosaurs, some of which reached monstrous proportions rivaling all but the largest of today's whales, thrived for more than 150 million years until disappearing about 95 million years ago. Dearcmhara, a moderate-sized ichthyosaur, swam in warm, shallow seas during the Jurassic Period, eating fish and squid.
Its remains are incomplete but the shape of a bone in its front flippers suggests it may have been an especially strong or fast swimmer, the researchers said. "It is from Scotland, and is the first uniquely Scottish marine reptile ever discovered and studied," said University of Edinburgh paleontologist Steve Brusatte, one of the researchers in the study published on Monday in the Scottish Journal of Geology.