Dearcmhara

Name: Dearcmhara ‭(‬marine lizard‭)‬.
Phonetic: Jark-vah-rah.
Named By: S.‭ ‬L.‭ ‬Brusatte,‭ ‬M.‭ ‬T.‭ ‬Young,‭ ‬T.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Challands,‭ ‬N.‭ ‬D.‭ ‬L.‭ ‬Clark,‭ ‬V.‭ ‬Fischer,‭ ‬N.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬Fraser,‭ ‬J.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Liston,‭ ‬C.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬MacFayden,‭ ‬D.‭ ‬A.‭ ‬Ross,‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Walsh‭ & ‬M.‭ ‬Wilkinson‭ ‬-‭ ‬2015.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Ichthyosauria,‭ ‬Parvipelvia,‭ ‬Neoichthyosauria.
Species: D.‭ ‬shawcrossi‭ (‬type‭)‬.
Diet: Carnivore/Piscivore.
Size: Roughly estimated at‭ ‬4.3‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Scotland,‭ ‬Isle of Skye‭ ‬-‭ ‬Bearreraig Sandstone Formation.
Time period: Toarcian of the Jurassic.
Fossil representation: Partial post cranial remains including elements of the tail,‭ ‬back and fin.

       In‭ ‬1959‭ ‬a fossil hunter named Brian Shawcross found a few portions of what was once an ichthyosaur some‭ ‬175-182‭ ‬million years before.‭ ‬Shawcross donated this find to‭ ‬the‭ ‬Hunterian museum in Glasgow,‭ ‬Scotland,‭ ‬but for over fifty years the fossils were just listed as those of an ichthyosaur.‭ ‬Then in‭ ‬2015‭ ‬a collaborative project conducted between the University of Edinburgh,‭ ‬National Museums Scotland,‭ ‬the Hunterian Museum,‭ ‬Scottish National Heritage and the Staffin Museum of Skye brought fossils that had been found on the Island of Skye over the past few decades and subjected‭ ‬them‭ ‬to modern day scrutiny.‭ ‬The fossils of the ichthyosaur found by Shawcross in‭ ‬1959‭ ‬were few,‭ ‬in fact only four bones of the original skeleton had been collected.‭ ‬Yet between these bones several features were mapped out that had not been seen in any other known species of ichthyosaur,‭ ‬meaning one thing‭; ‬Shawcross and the researchers on the project had discovered a new genus of ichthyosaur.
       The new ichthyosaur was named Dearcmhara,‭ ‬and at the time it represents one of the few times that the Gaelic language has been used to name a genus.‭ ‬Although the named begins with a‭ ‘‬D‭’‬,‭ ‬it is pronounced as if it were a‭ ‘‬J‭’ (‬full pronunciation above‭)‬.‭ ‬The type species name D.‭ ‬shawcrossi is in honour of the first discovery of the fossils,‭ ‬Brian Shawcross.‭ ‬Since the‭ ‬2015‭ ‬naming,‭ ‬Dearcmhara has been credited as the first marine reptile known from Scotland,‭ ‬though no relative of the Loch Ness Monster as it is now often joked‭!
       Despite the lack of fossils,‭ ‬Dearcmhara has been identified as a member of the Neoichthyosauria‭ (‬a sub group of the Parvipelvia‭)‬,‭ ‬though probably a primitive one.‭ ‬This means that Dearcmhara may have been similar to genera such as Temnodontosaurus which was known to have been swimming in oceanic waters from the British Isles to Germany during a similar time as Dearcmhara.‭ ‬However this group also includes more specialised forms such as Eurhinosaurus,‭ ‬Excalibosaurus and Ophthalmosaurus amongst others,‭ ‬which were also all active at a similar time and location.‭ ‬These however were all fairly advanced and quite specialised,‭ ‬and without further fossils being found,‭ ‬it would be hard to tell if Dearcmhara went down a specialist line.‭ ‬One of the key things about Dearcmhara is that muscle attachment points on the main fore fin were very different to those seen before in other genera.‭ ‬We don’t yet fully understand why this should be,‭ ‬but future discoveries may yet shed more light upon this interesting genus.

Further reading
-‭ ‬Ichthyosaurs from the Jurassic of Skye,‭ ‬Scotland.‭ ‬Scottish Journal of Geology.‭ ‬-‭ ‬S.‭ ‬L.‭ ‬Brusatte,‭ ‬M.‭ ‬T.‭ ‬Young,‭ ‬T.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Challands,‭ ‬N.‭ ‬D.‭ ‬L.‭ ‬Clark,‭ ‬V.‭ ‬Fischer,‭ ‬N.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬Fraser,‭ ‬J.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Liston,‭ ‬C.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬MacFayden,‭ ‬D.‭ ‬A.‭ ‬Ross,‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Walsh‭ & ‬M.‭ ‬Wilkinson‭ ‬-‭ ‬2015.



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