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19 May, 2014

Action to safeguard and promote gems of the 'dinosaur isle'

Local people on Skye are being invited to become voluntary wardens to help safeguard vulnerable fossil localities in a bid to tackle the problem of reckless collecting.

Skye is known as the dinosaur isle' due to its rich heritage of fossil sites, particularly from the Jurassic period, around 200 million years ago to 145 million years ago.

And though most people follow Scotland's Fossil Code there are still examples of people damaging these sites by collecting fossils in an irresponsible and therefore unacceptable way.

A public meeting on Tuesday (20 May) will be held at Tigh na Sgire, Portree, at 7pm involving Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) The Highland Council, National Museums Scotland and The Hunterian Museum.

It is hoped that a system will be developed to rescue, record and safeguard important fossils found on the island's beaches. There will also be a call for the promotion of the islands' fossil heritage as part of a tourism initiative to help boost the local economy.

Skye and Raasay have a rich geological heritage spanning the last three billion years of Earth's history. Fossil remains of plants and animals record the evolution of life . They also record the fascinating journey of the area we now know as Skye and Raasay, as it drifted for hundreds of millions of years across the face of the Earth.

Scotland's Fossil Code, the first truly national code of its kind, has offered best practice and guidance in the collecting and care of fossils since it was published in 2008.

SNH geologist Dr Colin MacFadyen said: "Skye and Raasay have a fantastic fossil heritage, and kids and amateur fossil hunters should be encouraged to collect.

"But at the same time something has to be done about irresponsible collecting and to reduce examples where people for whatever reasons damage fossil localities and important fossils. This is where the local community can get involved and help secure their threatened natural heritage. Local action may ensure that rare fossil finds are rescued, recorded and saved for the nation.

"The public meeting in Portree will encourage local people to play an important part in safeguarding and promoting an internationally significant asset."

Dr Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland said: "We are excited by the opportunities to work together to bring Skye's remarkable fossil heritage into greater prominence. This is a precious resource which, with support from the wider community, will benefit generations of islanders."

Dr Neil Clark of the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow said: "Skye has internationally important fossils including the very rare dinosaur remains which have only been found there since 1982. Skye is the only place in Scotland from which dinosaurs have been found and has more than 10% of the World's Middle Jurassic dinosaur species and more than 15% of the Middle Jurassic dinosaur sites. It is important that we look after and properly document these rare and globally significant fossil remains for future generations to study and enjoy."

The event called Skye's Fossil Heritage will include an expert-led visit to look at fossils and possibly take in the An Corran dinosaur footprints.

It will focus on fossil collecting; safeguarding vulnerable fossil localities; using Skye's fossil heritage to benefit the island economy, and establishing a Dinosaur Island Promotion and Fossil Safeguard Group.

Notes to editors

Skye and Raasay's oldest fossils include Cambrian-age trilobites that lived in shallow topical marine conditions around 520 million years ago. This was a time when there was no Atlantic Ocean and North America and Greenland were part of Scotland. England and Wales lay far to the south at that time. The youngest fossils are the remains of plants that grew in forest settings in a subtropical climate around 60 million years ago. This occurred as the Atlantic was forming and North America and Greenland split away from Scotland. The fossils occur in layers of mud and sand sandwiched between layers of lava, testimony to a continent splitting apart. The most famous aspects of Skye and Raasay's fossil heritage are those of the Jurassic period, including 170 million year old dinosaur bones and trackways, including those of the meat eating Megalosaurus. Dinosaur fossils are very rare in Scotland, and being the location where most are found, Skye is justifiably called Dinosaur Island.

SNH Fossil Code

Media inquiries: Fergus Macneill, SNH Public Relations: 01463 725021

Free colour pics are available for one off use. Pic caption with Hunterian Museum copyright image: Around 170 million years ago a dinosaur, thought to be a meat-eating Megalosaurus, left its tracks in soft silty sand at the margin of a shallow tropical sea in the area that we now know as Skye. © The Hunterian Museum.

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help everyone understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at SNH media is also now on Twitter at

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NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

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