ICHTHYOSAUR
Much like the Ichthyosaur fossil seen above, a uniquely Scottish marine creature from the Jurassic period has been recorded in fossils.Wild Horizon / Contributor/Getty

A prehistoric giant reptile looking like a dolphin roamed the waters around Scotland in the Jurassic period.

Identified from fossils found on the Isle of Skye by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the uniquely Scottish marine creature was 14ft long from snout to tail.

The team that studied fossil fragments of skulls, teeth, vertebrae and an upper arm bone unearthed on the island over the past 50 years have identified many other extinct aquatic animals - known as ichthyosaurs - which lived during the early-to-middle Jurassic besides the new species.

The creature preyed on fish and reptiles.

Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, said: "During the time of dinosaurs the waters of Scotland were prowled by big reptiles the size of motorboats.

"Their fossils are very rare, and only now for the first time we have found a new species that was uniquely Scottish."

The new species - Dearcmhara shawcrossi - is named in honour of an amateur enthusiast, Brian Shawcross, who recovered the creature's fossils from the island's Bearreraig Bay in 1959.

Much of Skye is believed to have been under water during the Jurassic Period. It is one of the few places in the world where fossils from the Middle Jurassic Period can be found.

It was joined to the rest of the UK and was part of a large island positioned between landmasses that gradually drifted apart and became Europe and North America.

"All of Scotland's dinosaurs come from Skye, as well as most of the fossils of these ocean-living reptiles," Brusatte added.

"Skye is really important globally because the fossils there are from the middle part of the Jurassic period, about 160 to 180 million years ago, and that is one of the worst-known intervals for reptiles and dinosaurs of their entire history.

"We have hardly any fossils of middle-Jurassic dinosaurs from anywhere in the world. It is a dark period. But some of the best are right here in Scotland."

The work is published in the Scottish Journal of Geology.