Dearcmhara shawcrossi: Shawcross's Marine Lizard of Skye, Scotland

by DerdriuMarriner

Dearcmhara shawcrossi is Shawcross’s Marine Lizard whose fossil in Skye, Scotland, in 1959 elucidates fossil-poor Jurassic Earth of 170,000,000 years ago.

Dearcmhara shawcrossi designates one of Scotland’s museum-housed rarities

Extra-museum and non-university initiatives account for 95% of Scotland’s fossilized past being appreciated, circulated, examined, and guarded by private collectors. A fortuitous find and a selfless share in 1959 contrastingly bring namesake honors, scientific recognition, and worldwide thanks to amateur fossil-hunter Brian Shawcross 56 years later. The fossilized bones in question count among the scientific advances and technological breakthroughs in the twenty-first century.
The quartet describe their bearer’s skeletal form and function in such a way as:
• to clarify ancient food webs and prehistoric ecosystems; and
• to warrant new genus and new species status to what is now one of the world’s most famous ichthyosaurs (fish lizard, from the respective Greek words ιχθυς [ichthys] and σαυρος [sauros]).




Isle of Skye's Bearreraig Waterfall of Bearreraig River which flows from Loch Leathan to Bearreraig Bay

Isle of Skye, mostly under water during the Jurassic period (201.3± 0.6 million years ago [Ma] to 145± 4 Ma), stands out as one of world's best sites of Middle Jurassic fossils.
Isle of Skye, northern Inner Hebrides, western coast of Scotland
Isle of Skye, northern Inner Hebrides, western coast of Scotland

Dearcmhara shawcrossi elucidates ecosystems fossil-scarce outside prehistoric Scotland


Dearcmhara shawcrossi emerges as the ancient marine ecosystem’s apex predator, with niche domination on par with the prehistoric terrestrial environment’s top predator, the dinosaur (terrible lizard, from the respective Greek words δεινός [deinos] and σαῦρος [sauros]). Scotland’s paleo-geology indeed finds itself in the enviable, sustainable position of preserving ocean-related fossils from 160,000,000 to 170,000,000 years ago. So the British Isles’ northern third gives a unique window on the Jurassic time period of 146,000,000 to 200,000,000 years ago, from which paleontological traces are lacking elsewhere throughout the world.
Ichthyologists, oceanographers, and paleontologists specifically have the Inner Hebrides archipelago to thank since the island of Skye was configured at the ancient times in question as lagoon-rich, mainland-attached, and semi-submerged. 


In 1959 fossil hunter Brian Shawcross gifted a humerus and 3 vertebrae to Scotland's oldest museum, Hunterian Museum, sited on main campus of University of Glasgow:

"Hunterian Museum": ca. 1840 engraving by Edward Radclyffe (ca. 1809 - November 1863) from original study by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1792–1864)
originally produced as part-work "London Interiors : A Grand National Exhibition" (London : 1841-1844)
originally produced as part-work "London Interiors : A Grand National Exhibition" (London : 1841-1844)

Dearcmhara shawcrossi furnishes marine perspectives on Jurassic Earth


Bearreraig Bay includes the northern beach from which Dearcmhara shawcrossi hails. Hunterian staff at Scotland’s oldest museum in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, judge themselves honored providers of Shawcross’s marine lizard’s home away from home for almost six decades now. They know that long-standing museum prestige will solidify with the increased funding, research, and visits subsequent to University of Edinburgh paleontologist Stephen Brusatte’s taxonomy of January 11, 2015 as lead researcher in PalAlba’s Scotland fossil-focused consortium of:

  • Hunterian Museum;
  • National Museum of Scotland;
  • Scottish National Heritage in Inverness;
  • Staffin Museum of Skye’s Trotternish peninsula; and
  • Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

They therefore like the cultural deference in their fossil receiving one of the world’s rare Gaelic genus names. 


Artist's interpretation of Dearcmhara shawcrossi: artwork by Todd Marshall

"Introducing Dearcmhara shawcrossi, the dino-fish that all the fuss is about."
"Introducing Dearcmhara shawcrossi, the dino-fish that all the fuss is about."

Dearcmhara shawcrossi generates super-efficacious, swim-bolstering ligaments and muscles


The motorboat-sized reptilian fossil makes waves through:

  • assumed predator-prey interactions with fishes and reptiles;
  • hypothesized niche dominance in shallow, warm coastal seas;
  • reconstructed snout-to-tail size at 14 feet (4.26 meters) from humerus, skull, teeth, vertebral fragments;
  • suspected crocodile-, dolphin-, shark-like looks; and
  • theorized primitive prediction of big-eyed, four-finned, large-sized ichthyosaurs 20,000,000 years later.

The sole specimen especially needs to be investigated for the significance of:

  • a big triangular muscle attachment scar; and
  • the deep ligament pit on the upper arm bone from the surviving quartet of flipper humerus and vertebral back and tail.

The two features operate to preserve what is ecologically, paleontologically, and taxonomically significant and unique regarding Dearcmhara shawcrossi as Jurassic water-world’s super-fast, super-strong swimmer. 


It's Not Nessie, But Jurassic Predator Found In Scotland

Published on YouTube on January 12, 2015 by Newsy Science ~ URL:



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Dearcmhara shawcrossi represents an ichthyosaurus described from a humerus and 3 vertebrae retrieved from Toarcian–Bajocian-aged (168.3–190.8 mya) deposits

Palaeontological humor ~ "Awful Changes: Man found only in a fossil state - Reappearance of Ichthyosaura": 1830 lithograph by English palaeontologist Sir Henry de la Bèche (February 10, 1796 – April 13, 1855)
Sir De la Beche's cartoon lampoons cyclical theory of biological and geological history proposed by geologist Sir Charles Lyell (November 14, 1797 – February 22, 1875)
Sir De la Beche's cartoon lampoons cyclical theory of biological and geological history proposed by geologist Sir Charles Lyell...

Sources Consulted


Benson, Thor. 11 January 2015. “Fossils of Large Ocean Reptile Discovered on the Coast of Scotland.” UPI > Science News. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @

Brusatte, Stephen. 12 January 2015. “How We Found Scotland’s First Jurassic Sea Reptile (And No, She’s Not Related to Nessie).” The Conversation > Science + Technology. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @

Brusatte, Steve. 18 January 2015. “Huge Honour to Meet Brian Shawcross Today. The Man Who Found Dearcmhara and Donated it to the Hunterian Museum.” Twitter. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @

Brusatte, Stephen L.; Young, Mark T.; Challands, Thomas J.; Clark, Neil D.L.; Fischer, Valentin; Fraser, Nicholas C.; Liston, Jeff J.; MacFadyen, Colin C.J.; Ross, Dugald A.; Walsh, Stig; and Wilkinson, Mark. 2015. “Ichthyosaurs from the Jurassic of Skye, Scotland.” Scottish Journal of Geology.

  • Available @ doi: 10.1144/sjg2014-018

Connor, Steve. 12 January 2015. “First Remains of New ‘Shark-like Reptile’ Found on the Isle of Skye.” The Independent > News > Science. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @

Dunham, Will. 11 January 2015. “Move Over Nessie, Scotland Gets a New Prehistoric Marine Reptile.” Thomson Reuters > Science. Retrieved July 20, 2015. 

  • Available @

Hilton, Lucy; and von Radowitz, John. 12 January 2015. “Loch Ness Monster’s Long Lost Relative Discovered in Scotland and It Grew up to 14ft Long.” Mirror > News > UK News. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @

Knapton, Sarah. 12 January 2015. “Was This Nessie’s Ancestor? Giant Prehistoric Monster Roamed Scottish Waters.” The Telegraph > News > Science > Science News. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @

Sample, Ian. 11 January 2015. Amended 16 January 2015. “Fossil from Skye Is New species of Marine Predator, Scientists Say.” The Guardian > UK News. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @

Sugden, Maureen. 11 January 2015. “Found, Nessie’s Long-lost Cousin: Dolphin-like Reptile Lived 170million Years ago in Seas Around What Is Now the Isle of Skye.” Daily Mail > News. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @ 

Watts, Jack. 12 January 2015. Updated 30 January 2015. “Long Lost Relative of Loch Ness Monster Discovered off the Isle of Skye.” Express > News > UK. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

  • Available @


Dearcmhara shawcrossi belonged to an order of marine reptiles which became extinct for unknown reasons in Late Cretaceous (100.5–66 Ma) and which were replaced as top aquatic predators by plesiosaurs ~

A school of ichthyosaurs: artist's interpretation by Paleo-artist Dmitry Bogdanov of Chelyabinsk, Russia
Paleo-artistry of Chelyabinsk, Russia native, Dmitry Bogdanov
Paleo-artistry of Chelyabinsk, Russia native, Dmitry Bogdanov
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Photo Jigsaw Puzzle of Awful Changes cartoon by Sir Henry Thomas De la Beche ~ Available via Amazon

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box of dimensions 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5.
ichthyosaurus-themed jigsaw puzzles

Ichthyosaur And Prey: artwork by Richard Bizley ~ Available via AllPosters

Ichthyosaurs such as Dearcmhara shawcrossi included fish and squid in their diets.
Ichthyosaur And Prey, Artwork

Miposaur Toy by WowWee MiP Robot ~ Available now via Amazon ~ "The future of Prehistoric is here!" ~ 43 Bestseller in Toys & Games>Electronics for Kids>RC Figures & Robots

Hand gesture command recognition *Unique dual-wheel balancing *Evolving intelligence for progressive play *Includes Beacon Sense infused trackball, that Miposaur will flawlessly keep in sight *Use trackball to activate modes (dance, feed, etc.)
dinosaur-themed products

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/12/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 07/23/2015

CruiseReady, Shawcross's marine lizard certainly inspires a lot of interesting comments and observations, as evidenced by your thoughts and those of blackspanielgallery. Dr. Brusatte -- who was involved in the specimen's identification and its discoverer's recognition -- is hopeful that other collectors will help complete the critter's information -- which is based only on a handful of critical bones -- by bringing forth other fossils.

It certainly is intriguing that Dearcmhara shawcrossi straddles the line between marine mammal and reptile by being compared on the one hand to dolphins and sharks and on the other to crocodiles and lizards!

DerdriuMarriner on 07/23/2015

blackspanielgallery, Shawcross's marine lizard indeed is such an educationally entertaining look into ancient Earth's animal life. It must be so heartwarming to Brian Shawcross to live to see his fossils categorized and serve as such a boon to reconstructing our planet's pre-history.

CruiseReady on 07/22/2015

What an interesting creature! I find myself wondering if it wasn't a marine mammal, since today's marine lizzards are , and because it is mentioned as possibly 'dolphin-like.'

blackspanielgallery on 07/20/2015

Quite a nice look into the distant past.

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