• The Storr Lochs Monster has gone on public display for the first time, 50 years after the fossil was first discovered (National Museums Scotland/Todd Marshall)Source: National Museums Scotland/Todd Marshall
The most complete Scottish fossil of an ichthyosaur has made its public debut, half a century after it was first discovered by an amateur collector.
Bianca Soldani

6 Sep 2016 - 11:47 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2016 - 11:47 AM

The legend of the Loch Ness 'monster' still lives in the hearts of some Scots, but now the country has another - and far more susbstantial - marine reptile to call its own.

At an impressive four metres long, with a dolphin-like nose brimming with sharp teeth, the Storr Lochs Monster would have been a formidable predator when it cruised the seas 170 million years ago.

The prehistoric creature has just been revealed in its debut public display and is the most complete skeleton of an ichthyosaur found in that region.

The skeleton was originally discovered on the Isle of Skye half a century ago when power station manager and amateur fossil collector Norrie Gillies stumbled across it in 1966.

Encased in a solid tomb of sedimentary rock, the monster was preserved by the Royal Scottish Museum until work began to properly reveal the fossil last year.

In a joint effort by the University of Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland, and Gillies’ former employer SSE, the skeleton was freed from its rock encasing and is now said to be the "crown jewel" of Scottish fossils.

Sadly, Gillies himself passed away five years ago without seeing his find in all its glory, but his son Allan - who was just six at the time of the discovery – was present for the unveiling.

He tells National Geographic, “Dad’s not around to see it himself, but I know he’d be very, very pleased to know that it’s finally being displayed.

“He’d also be very pleased to know that it’s the company he worked for that helped to make it happen. It’s sort of completing the story.”

The deep-sea predators - sometimes referred to as sea dragons - ichthyosaurs were finned marine reptiles, similar in appearance to dolphins, that lived during the Jurassic era.

They ate fish and squid and are believed to have evolved from land-living creatures.

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New documentary Definitive Guide To Sea Monsters is available on SBS On Demand, or watch it down below!