Dinosaur footprints from Scotland's Jurassic Island

Published: 26 August 2002

Jurassic dinosaur footprints have recently been found on the Isle of Skye.

A team of fossil experts will make rubber moulds of the most recent record of large dinosaur footprints in Scotland this week as part of a project including the Hunterian Museum, the University of Glasgow and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Dr Neil Clark from the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum will lead a team on the Isle of Skye between 27th-29th August 2002 to uncover the Jurassic Period footprints and make rubber moulds and casts of 16 prints.

At around 165 million years old and up to 50cm in length, they are the youngest and largest of dinosaurs in Scotland. The footprints are constantly being eroded by the tide and will eventually disappear but the team hopes to preserve these important remains of Scotland's prehistoric heritage for future generations to study.

Dr Clark said, "Dinosaur remains are very rare in Scotland and every attempt should be made to protect them. Sadly, these footprints were found on a beach that is battered by winter storms. It is important that we have a permanent record of these footprints in our museums before tidal erosion destroys them or sand engulfs them."

The footprints of this large meat-eating dinosaur were found on a beach near the Staffin Slipway on the Isle of Skye, which has become known as Scotland's Jurassic Isle due to the large number of dinosaur remains uncovered there. The prints are the first dinosaur remains to be found still held in the rocks in which they were made. All other dinosaur remains found on Skye have come from loose boulders on the beaches, making it difficult to identify the precise level from which they came.

Cathie Booth of the Glen View Inn, Culnacnoc, Isle of Skye discovered the first footprint on a loose block of sandstone. Mrs Booth said," I wasn't sure that what I had was a dinosaur footprint, and was delighted to have it confirmed by Dr Clark."

The rescue excavation and moulding project is grant-aided by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Executive's advisor on conservation, which includes geological remains such as fossils. Original casts of the footprints will be kept at Staffin museum, and copies will be sent to the Hunterian Museum and the National Museum of Scotland.

Scotland boasts some of the rarest and most scientifically important fossils in the world, spanning at least 800 million years of Earth history. Yet the irresponsible and illegal collecting and trade of rare fossils, as well as natural erosion, threaten this priceless natural heritage.

Stephen Varwell, Advisory Officer at SNH said, " We hope that, by drawing attention to these precious remains, we will raise awareness of the importance of their conservation and encourage people to protect their local fossils from thieves. In addition, the casting will allow these Jurassic Period prints to be preserved for posterity so future generations can learn about the fascinating dinosaur age."

Visitors are welcome at the site during the period of the excavation (27-29th August), which is tide dependant (low tide is mid-late afternoon). The footprints will remain where they are so that visitors and residents on Skye may see them in the rock on which they formed.

Students from Portree High School will be helping with the preparation of the footprints for moulding on Tuesday afternoon.

Media Relations Office (media@gla.ac.uk)

Scottish Natural Heritage is the Scottish Executive?s statutory advisor on the conservation, enhancement, enjoyment, understanding and sustainable use of the Scotland?s natural heritage.

Dr Neil D. L. Clark has published widely on the dinosaurs from Scotland and has authored several popular books on dinosaurs. He is based at the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow - Scotland?s first public museum.

Photo Opportunity : Tuesday 27 August, at 2pm, at: An Corran, near the Staffin Slipway, Staffin, Trotternish, Isle of Skye

Contact: Stephen Varwell SNH, Portree Tel: 01478 613329

Dr Neil Clark Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow
Mobile 07751 799956

Mrs Cathie and Mr Paul Booth, Glen View Inn, Culnacnoc
Tel: 01470 562248

Mr Dugald Ross, Staffin Museum, Elishadder
Tel: 01470 562321

Mr Neil Roberts, Portree High School, Viewfield Road, Portree
Tel: 01478 612030

Images available from the following link: http://www.hmag.gla.ac.uk/Neil/reprods/staffin.html

First published: 26 August 2002

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