Deserts are not where you expect to find evidence of life, but the rocks deposited in hot, arid environments in this region are famous for the fossils they contain.
In the dry Lower Devonian landscape arthropods scuttled between small, primitive plants no more than 30cm tall. This rare early ecosystem was preserved when silica-rich water bubbled out from hot springs, forming the Rhynie Chert, collected for research at the University of Aberdeen.
A wetter Middle Devonian climate led to an extensive lake stretching from Moray toward Shetland, inhabited by unfamiliar and diverse forms of early fish, some of which can be seen at Elgin Museum and the Discovery Centre in Mintlaw.
The collections at Elgin Museum hold reptile bones and trackways preserved by shifting sand dunes of the Permian desert, evidence of abundant life before a major extinction event, and reptile bones from the Triassic documenting recovery following the same event. The collection at the Falconer Museum includes relatively recent mammal, crocodile and plant fossils from the Siwalik Hills of India and Pakistan with a link to local collectors.