December 7, 2022

Fossil of 8ft-long ichthyosaurus preserved for 180 million years tipped to sell for over £500,000 

The complete fossil of a 180 million-year-old marine reptile is tipped to sell for over £500,000 at auction.

It is the skeleton of an ichthyosaur – a Jurassic predator approximately eight feet (2.4 m) long – and had been preserved in soft carbonate mud prior to its excavation.

This specimen was discovered in a geological formation in Lorraine, France in the early 2000s, during the construction of the high-speed TGV rail line.

As the majority of complete ichthyosaur fossils belong to museums, those that appear on the private market usually command high prices.

This one is being sold at Bonhams in Paris on December 13, and is expected to go for hundreds of thousands.

Claudia Florian, consulting director of Bonhams natural history department, said: ‘This skeleton is extremely complete with a total of more than 80 percent original bones.

‘It is the first time that a complete specimen like this, found in France, will be offered at auction.’

This specimen was discovered in a geological formation in Lorraine, France in the early 2000s, during the construction of the high-speed TGV rail line

Ichtyhosaurs - meaning 'fish lizards' in Greek - were a species of reptile which thrived in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods between 252 and 90 million years ago

Ichtyhosaurs - meaning 'fish lizards' in Greek - were a species of reptile which thrived in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods between 252 and 90 million years ago

Ichtyhosaurs – meaning ‘fish lizards’ in Greek – were a species of reptile which thrived in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods between 252 and 90 million years ago

This fossil is being sold at Bonhams in Paris on December 13, and is expected to go for hundreds of thousands

This fossil is being sold at Bonhams in Paris on December 13, and is expected to go for hundreds of thousands

This fossil is being sold at Bonhams in Paris on December 13, and is expected to go for hundreds of thousands

Claudia Florian, consulting director of Bonhams natural history department, said: 'This skeleton is extremely complete with a total of more than 80 percent original bones'

Claudia Florian, consulting director of Bonhams natural history department, said: 'This skeleton is extremely complete with a total of more than 80 percent original bones'

Claudia Florian, consulting director of Bonhams natural history department, said: ‘This skeleton is extremely complete with a total of more than 80 percent original bones’

WHAT WERE ICHYTHYOSAURS?

Ichthyosaurs were a highly successful group of sea-going reptiles that became extinct around 90 million years ago.

They appeared during the Triassic, reached their peak during the Jurassic, and disappeared during the Cretaceous period. 

Often misidentified as swimming dinosaurs, these reptiles appeared before the first dinosaurs had emerged.

They evolved from an as-yet unidentified land reptile that moved back into the water. 

Scientists calculate that one species had a cruising speed of 22 mph (36 kph).

The largest species of ichthyosaur is thought to have grown to over 20 metres (65 ft) in length.

The largest complete ichthyologists fossil ever discovered, at 11 feet (3.5 m), was found to have a foetus still inside its womb. 

She added: ‘Complete and well-preserved specimens are rare. 

‘Some of the best-known specimens tend to be flattened in mud-rock deposits, so it is quite rare to find an example, like this one, where the skeleton is not only well-represented but the bones are preserved in three dimensions.’

Ichtyhosaurs – meaning ‘fish lizards’ in Greek – were a species of reptile that thrived in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods between 252 and 90 million years ago.

Originating from the ocean, they moved onto land before eventually evolving back into water. 

They are famous for their fish-like shape, resembling today’s dolphins, but are often misidentified as swimming dinosaurs.

The first complete ichthyosaur skeleton was found at Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1811 by 12-year-old English palaeontologist Mary Anning.

In 1840, the order ichthyosauria was introduced by English biologist Sir Richard Owen, and today about 80 species are recognised.

The fossil up for auction is one of the most well preserved and fully represented of its kind.

Thousands of bones were individually excavated and rebuilt for its creation, before being mounted on a brass stand.

Ms Florian said: ‘Extraordinary skill and precision not only enabled the extraction of the fossilised bones one by one from its matrix, but also made it possible to rebuild the skeleton in 3D.

‘Only a handful of ichthyosaurs have ever been reconstructed this way.

‘This individual specimen represents more than two years of work by a specialist.

‘This species of ichthyosaur, in particular, the stenopterygius, has not been studied in depth and there is very little literature on it.

‘This sale represents a unique and interesting opportunity for scientific research by a museum or private collector.’

The fossil up for auction is one of the most well preserved and fully represented of its kind

The fossil up for auction is one of the most well preserved and fully represented of its kind

Thousands of bones were individually excavated and rebuilt for its creation, before being mounted on a brass stand

Thousands of bones were individually excavated and rebuilt for its creation, before being mounted on a brass stand

The fossil up for auction is one of the most well preserved and fully represented of its kind. Thousands of bones were individually excavated and rebuilt for its creation, before being mounted on a brass stand

As the majority of complete ichthyosaur fossil belong to museums, those which appear on the private market usually command high prices

As the majority of complete ichthyosaur fossil belong to museums, those which appear on the private market usually command high prices

As the majority of complete ichthyosaur fossil belong to museums, those which appear on the private market usually command high prices

In May, a 139 million-year-old ichthyosaur fossil unearthed in Chile was found to be pregnant with several babies at the time of its death.

The remains of the creature, named Fiona, were unearthed by researchers from a melting glacier deep in Patagonia.

The find added to evidence that ichthyosaurs gave birth to live young, unlike egg-laying dinosaurs.

The first known pregnant ichthyosaur fossil was discovered in 1749 and scientifically described in 1842.

It was the largest complete fossil ever documented at 11 feet (3.5 m) long.

In May, a 139 million-year-old ichthyosaur fossil unearthed in Chile was found to be pregnant with several babies at the time of its death

In May, a 139 million-year-old ichthyosaur fossil unearthed in Chile was found to be pregnant with several babies at the time of its death

In May, a 139 million-year-old ichthyosaur fossil unearthed in Chile was found to be pregnant with several babies at the time of its death 

The remains of the creature, named Fiona, were unearthed by researchers from a melting glacier deep in Patagonia

The remains of the creature, named Fiona, were unearthed by researchers from a melting glacier deep in Patagonia

The remains of the creature, named Fiona, were unearthed by researchers from a melting glacier deep in Patagonia 

Another ichthyosaur fossil was found in 2021 at the bottom of the Rutland Water reservoir in the Midlands, and was hailed one of the greatest finds in British fossil history.

It was the largest and most complete skeleton found in the UK, at 32 feet (10 metres) in length, with a skull weighing a ton. 

The specimen lived approximately 180 million years ago, was found as the reservoir was being drained to improve the habitat for breeding birds.

A team of palaeontology experts from around UK had to remove the giant skeleton with a tractor.

Another ichthyosaur fossil was found in 2021 at the bottom of the Rutland Water reservoir in the Midlands, and was hailed one of the greatest finds in British fossil history

Another ichthyosaur fossil was found in 2021 at the bottom of the Rutland Water reservoir in the Midlands, and was hailed one of the greatest finds in British fossil history

Another ichthyosaur fossil was found in 2021 at the bottom of the Rutland Water reservoir in the Midlands, and was hailed one of the greatest finds in British fossil history 

Palaeontologists spent 14 days excavating the discovery before it was removed in August 2021

Palaeontologists spent 14 days excavating the discovery before it was removed in August 2021

Palaeontologists spent 14 days excavating the discovery before it was removed in August 2021

Ichthyosaurs had BLUBBER just like whales 

From seals to whales, many marine animals have a thick layer of fat directly under their skin, known as blubber.

Now, a new study has shown for the first time that ichthyosaurs – ancient marine reptiles that lived 150 million years ago – also had blubber.

Scientists from the Natural History Museum in Oslo have studied the remains of an ichthyosaur discovered in the Solnhofen area in Southern Germany.

The specimen includes the complete internal skeleton, which was stunningly preserved thanks to its blubber, according to the team.

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