Isle of Skye Fossils Stolen

The Isle of Skye has experienced a new crime, an important Jurassic fossil site has been ransacked.  The illegal removal of fossils and the damaging of a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).  The fossils removed from the cliff face date from the Middle Jurassic and according to some reports the specimens hacked from the cliff using crowbars have ended up on Ebay.

This act of wanton vandalism, one of he worst ever recorded on a SSSI has been described by scientists as “reckless”.  A spokesperson for the Scottish Natural Heritage stated that the rock bearing fossils was actually hacked away from the cliffs near Bearreraig Bay in an apparent organised search for valuable vertebrate specimens.  The agency has appealed for witnesses to contact the police.

The Smashed and Broken Rocks at the Site

Smashed Jurassic Fossils (pen provides scale)

Picture credit: Scottish Natural Heritage

The picture shows the broken rocks, many of which contain ammonite fossils.  This area of Scotland contains the exposed strata of a Middle Jurassic marine environment, team members at Everything Dinosaur suspect that the vandals may have been searching for the fossilised bones of a marine reptile such as an ichthyosaur or plesiosaur.  With the very high prices fetched for such fossils on auction sites, it was only a matter of time before such an attack on a SSSI took place.

Jurassic Fossil Site

Skye is the only place in Scotland where fossils of dinosaurs have been found and a number of dinosaur footprints may also have been removed from Valtos on the island, the agency claim (Scottish Natural Heritage).

Evidence gathered at Valtos has been used by palaeontologists to explain what may have occurred at the Cretaceous aged strata at Lark Quarry in Australia, this site records the movements of at least three different types of dinosaur.  The preserved footprints at Lark Quarry (Queensland) have been intensively studied, and ironically Everything Dinosaur published an update on the research just a few days ago.

To read the Lark Quarry article: Lark Quarry Dinosaur Footprints – Scientists Re-examine the Evidence.

Scottish Natural Heritage said the Bearreraig Bay dig had been done without the landowner’s permission or the consent of SNH, which manages the SSSI.

Dr Colin MacFadyen, SNH’s geologist, also said the actions went against guidelines in the Scottish Fossil Collecting Code.

The codes does allow for the use of mechanical diggers, rock saws and even explosives for extracting fossils, but only when it was to the benefit of palaeontological research.

Dr MacFadyen commented:

 “Fossil collecting is important for scientific and educational purposes, and is a popular hobby.  It is better for fossils that fall from cliffs to be found, collected and enjoyed rather than be eroded and washed away by the tide.  However, speeding up the process by large scale rock removal as in this alarming case is irresponsible and illegal, and also potentially dangerous to people as the cliff faces are undermined and destabilised.”

We at Everything Dinosaur roundly condemn such activities, we urge anyone who may know something or may have seen something connected with this incident to contact their local police station.

The Isle of Skye remains a very important location for the study of Jurassic creatures, a few years ago we reported on the attempts of scientists to compare and contrast the fossil record on the Scottish island with a site in the central part of the United States.  Two locations separated by thousands of miles today, but back in the Jurassic these regions were very close to each other.

Skye dinosaur study: The Isle of Skye Dinosaur Track Mystery.