A relative of the legendary Loch Ness monster hunted prehistoric marine animals in the warm and shallow seas around Scotland when it thrived 170 million year ago.

The dolphin-like beast the size of a motorboat was identified based on fossils that were discovered in the Isle of Skye and described as a new species of ichthyosaur, a now extinct marine reptile characterized by four flippers, a vertical tail and a pointy head.

Described in a study published in the Scottish Journal of Geology on Jan. 11, the creature was a fearsome predator believed to have hunted dinosaurs and sharks in the prehistoric times. Sharks that lived in what is now the Isle of Skye were smaller and more primitive compared with present-day sharks.

The creature was named Dearcmhara shawcrossi in honor of Brian Shawcross, an amateur collector who recovered the fossils at the Bearreraig Bay in 1959 and donated them to the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow eventually allowing researchers to study the specimens and come up with an idea of how the animal looked like when it was still alive.

Dearcmhara means "marine lizard." The species is one of the few to be given a Scottish Gaelic name, which could also be attributed to the fact it was the first known marine reptile from Scotland to be described in a study.

"We describe a suite of ichthyosaur fossils from the Early to Middle Jurassic of Skye, which to our knowledge are the first ichthyosaurs from Scotland to be described and figured in detail," wrote study researcher Stephen Brusatte from the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, and colleagues.

Brusatte said that the formidable predator may have measured about 14 feet long when it lived in the warm and shallow waters of what is now Skye, which was under water at the time the Dearcmhara lived. Skye was then a part of a large island that sat between landmasses that later drifter apart to become what is now known as North America and Europe.

Paleontologists studied unearthed skulls, teeth, an upper arm, and fragments of skulls of the creature over the past 50 years and are now able to project how the ancient beast may have looked like.

The researchers said that Skye is among the few number of places where the remains of ancient animals from the Middle Jurassic Period can be found and discoveries made in the region could offer valuable insights on the evolution of marine reptiles.

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