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Dearc sgiathanach, largest Jurassic pterosaur, found on Isle of Skye, Scotland

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Dearc sgiathanach means “winged reptile” in Scottish Gaelic. It is a flying animal that lived in the Middle Jurassic about 170 million years ago and belonged to Rhamphorhynchidae, a group of early pterosaurs.

The wingspan of the reptile was between 1.9m and 3.8m. It is the largest Jurassic pterosaur yet known.

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In 2017, paleontologist Amelia Penny was photographing dinosaur footprints on a rocky beach at Rubha nam Brathairean on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom when she stumbled across a Dearc sgiathanach’s head. At the time, she was a Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The pterosaur was sawed out of the rock and studied exhaustively. The results of the analysis were published in Current Biology on February 22, 2022.

Penny authored the study along with Natalia Jagielska, Michael O’Sullivan, Gregory F. Funston, Ian B. Butler, Thomas J. Challands, Neil D.L. Clark, Nicholas C. Fraser, Dugald A. Ross, Mark Wilkinson and Stephen L. Brusatte. They described the pterosaur found on the Isle of Skye as a new spectacularly preserved three-dimensional skeleton from the Middle Jurassic of Scotland.

“Dearc sgiathanach is a fantastic example of why paleontology will never cease to be astounding,” Sci News quoted Jagielska as saying. “Pterosaurs preserved in such quality are exceedingly rare and are usually reserved to select rock formations in Brazil and China and yet, an enormous superbly preserved pterosaur emerged from a tidal platform in Scotland.”

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The Isle of Skye has been occupied since the Mesolithic period. Its capital and largest settlement is Portree, which is considered one of the most villages in the U.K.

Opened in 1995, the Skye Bridge links the Isle of Skye to the mainland of Scotland. Among the favorite tourist destinations on the island are Glen Brittle, the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr and the Neist Point Lighthouse.

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