Elgin Reptile tracks
New and old tracks from the Hopeman Sandstone near Elgin

NEW Conference on Elgin Fossils (Click for details - April 1999)

During a recent lecture to the Open University at the S102 Summer School, a student (Mrs Carol Hopkins) made it known that there are a number of unreported tracks and trackways from the Hopeman Sandstone (Permo-Trias) near Elgin. Expeditions led by Mrs Hopkins and the Hunterian Museum in Elgin revealed over 30 tracks and trackways. Sizes of the tracks fell into four broad size categories from hind prints of about 3cm to over 40cm in length. Some damage to known trackways as well as new trackways in this classic area are cause for concern. The tracks are of the type Chelichnus as described by Haubold (1996)

Due to the re-opening of the Clashach Quarry near Hopeman, this important trackway below is now half the length it was before operations began. The quarry is being worked for building stone to be used in the new extension of the National Museums of Scotland in Chambers Street, Edinburgh.

One of the useful by-products Clashach Quarry re-opening is the opportunity for new material to be uncovered. Some of the smaller tracks are exquisite imprints showing digits clearly. Many of the tracks have now been rescued by the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, and the Elgin Museum with help from the Scottish Natural Heritage. The animals that produced these tracks were moving across sand dunes and overbank splays. The stride lengths suggest a variety of travelling speeds.

Other tracks and trackways have been discovered on loose blocks on the beach between Hopeman and Burghead. The shape of the tracks may be a function of both the unconsolidated consistency of the sand and recent weathering of the surface. These specimens are now in the Elgin Museum.

Outwith the SSSI sites, that cover most of the quarries and foreshore around Elgin, is a trackway that has recently been vandalised. The collector has removed one track from this trackway (presumably the most aesthetic track) reducing its scientific worth. Even if the track were recovered it would be difficult to replace it in context due to the straight-edged method of removal. This specimen has now been rescued by a joint operation between the SNH and the Royal Museum of Scotland and was widely reported in the press. The best reports were in the local papers on the 12th and 13th of February, 1997 ( Press and Journal and The Northern Scot)

Even outside of the SSSI boundaries, the loss of this track is a devastating blow to the local community. Frequent school and society visits to this site offered the opportunity to learn about the early land animals that made these tracks. At least now the specimen will be properly cared for within the secure surroundings of the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, hopefully to go on display at some point in the future.

The model of Elginia is a new addition to the displays at the Elgin Museum. It is only used here for scale, not to suggest that it might have been the track-maker.

Reference: Haubold, H. 1996, Ichnotaxonomie und Klassifikation von Tetrapodenfährten aus dem Perm. Hallesches Jahrb. Geowiss. 18, pp23-88.

Several new discoveries have come to light from the Clashach Quarry. One noteable one is the tail drags associated with tracks and another is a six-toed footprint. Whether it is a six-toed track or not will remain to be seen as we research the track further.

'click' on image to obtain a higher resolution 272K image.

Another discovery is that of the first animal remains from this quarry. They may represent the decalcified bones of a mammal-like reptile. Further investigations are underway. There are now (10th Sept. 1997) over 100 trackways and a large number with tail-drags!

Click on image to get 272K image

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