An artist's impression of life in a fresh water lake around 360 million years ago. Credit: Mark Witton
Islanders can find out how life on earth began this month with as an exciting touring exhibition – 'Fossil Hunters' – set to be displayed at both Museum nan Eilean Lews Castle and Museum nan Eilean Uibhist agus Barraigh premises.
Brought to the Hebrides in partnership with National Museums Scotland, 'Fossil Hunters' provides a glimpse of life around 360 million years ago when Scotland lay south of the equator, and reveals the 'missing link' between amphibians and reptiles.
Showcased in the exhibition are fossils discovered in Scotland as recently as summer 2015, which were formed from animals believed to be amongst the first vertebrates to live on land.
Until recently no fossil evidence had been found to explain how vertebrate life moved from water to land, leading to a gap in scientific knowledge of evolution. Known as 'Romer's Gap', this mystery has been challenging palaeontologists for generations.
However, after years of searching, the answers have begun to be unearthed. In 2008, palaeontologist Stan Wood uncovered a number of fossils which began to reveal this key chapter in the history of evolution, including a notable amphibian specimen nicknamed 'Ribbo'.
Spurred on by these finds, researchers from National Museums Scotland and institutions around the country have been working together to uncover more examples in Scotland.
Objects to be seen at Museum nan Eilean include fossils of the Balanerpeton, a five-toed animal adapted for life both in the water and on land; and the Westlothiana, considered the formerly missing link between amphibians and reptiles.
An artist's impression of life on land around 360 million years ago. Credit: Mark Witton
Visitors will be able to find out more about how these clues to the past were discovered by watching specially commissioned films and playing a touchscreen game which divulges the techniques that modern scientists use to extract and identify fossils.
The Fossil Hunters exhibition has been curated by the National Museums Scotland, one of the key partners in creating the new museum at Lews Castle, and opens at Museum nan Eilean on Thursday, April 13th, running until July 26th.
A special public opening will take place on Wednesday, April 12th, from 6pm where Nick Fraser, the Keeper of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland, will speak about the importance of the fossils on display and how they were discovered.
All are welcome to this free event and to be the first to visit the Fossil Hunters exhibition.
And after the exhibition closes at Museum nan Eilean Lews Castle, Fossil Hunters will transfer to be shown at Museum nan Eilean Uibhist agus Barraigh from September 8th until December 2nd.