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Scotland’s Fossils

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Scotland is famous for its wealth of fossils. From dinosaurs and their footprints on the Isle of Skye to the “Elgin Marvels” that roamed a dry, desert Scotland more than 200 million years ago, Scotland’s fossil heritage is one that has revolutionised palaeontology over the last two hundred years. 

Course Details

Content of Course

This course will cover a range of key subjects, such as:

  • Floating plankton and geological time.
  • Coal mines and giant monsters.
  • The last piece of the puzzle – the discovery of the conodont animal.
  • Jawless wonders – The fish of Lesmahagow.
  • The Elgin Marvels – reptiles from Permian and Triassic periods.
  • Dinosaur Isle – Dinosaurs of the Isle of Skye
  • The TW:eed project – the oldest land lubbers.
  • The Rhynie Chert
  • Some of the oldest fossils in the world – algae and single-celled organisms from Torridon.
  • Lake Cadell and the Midlothian Oil Shales.
  • Past memories of a great ice-age.
  • The future of Scottish Palaeontology.

Teaching method(s)

Students will learn about the geological and fossil heritage of Scotland through a series of lectures illustrated with real, hands-on fossil specimens.

Each session will showcase a historically and scientifically important fossil discovery made in Scotland, that will not only demonstrate the Scotland’s fossil diversity but show why scientists from around the world continue to be drawn to Scotland to conduct fieldwork and ground-breaking research.

Students will be provided with online resources and materials that they can use in their own time to consolidate the themes of the lectures.

Feedback on students’ progress and understanding will be provided during in-class discussion.

The course will be complemented by the Palaeontology in the Field course.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the most important fossil finds from Scotland.
  2. Appreciate the historical position Scotland has in the development of palaeontology as a science.
  3. Explain how current research in Scottish institutions is at the forefront of palaeontological science.

Understand and adopt the Scottish Fossil Code through discussion of responsible fossil collecting.


Core Readings

There is no essential reading. The recommended titles below may be of interest to students, but there is no expectation to purchase any of these books.

These titles may be found in public libraries.

Trewin, N.H. (2013). Scottish Fossils. Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press. (out of print)

Web Sources


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.