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Lot
49317

FANTASTICAL ANKYLOSAURID SKULL. ...

2012 May 20 Natural History & Fine Minerals Signature Auction- New York #6068

 
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Auction Ended On: May 20, 2012
Item Activity: 1 Internet/mail/phone bidders Number of Bidders
3,704 page views
Location: Center 548
548 W. 22nd St.
New York, NY 10011

Description:
FANTASTICAL ANKYLOSAURID SKULL
Saichania chulsanensis
Cretaceous, Campanian stage
Central Asia

The Mongolian name of this bizarre-looking dinosaur seems like a witticism, for Saichania in Mongolian means "beautiful one"; it was in fact coined for the beautiful condition of the first bones found of this late dinosaur species. Presented here is a superb, complete skull with an immediately dramatic and unusual appearance. Far from conventionally beautiful, the natural beauty and fascination it exerts is terrific, as one explores the incredibly textured cranium. Broader than it is long, with two sets of distinctive horn-like protrusions at the rear, it is no wonder that when such Ankylosaurid skulls were discovered in ancient times they were thought to be the skulls of dragons. Saichania was first described in modern times in 1977, from a skull found in the Barun Goyot Formation of the Nemegt Basin in southern Mongolia. It could grow to approximately 23 feet in length, standing 6 feet high and weighing around 2 tons and conformed too many of the usual characteristics of the Ankylosaurs. This included a heavily scute-armoured body, and a tail terminating in a large, club-like bony mass. There are, however, distinctly unusual features to the skull: of all known dinosaurs and reptiles, Saichania is the only species to have a bifurcated nasal passage - the air passages throughout the skull are unusually complex. Also present are clearly-defined turbinates, a circular, bony tube found in mammals and some late Tyrannosaurids. These were supposed to facilitate the warming of the air as it was breathed in. It has been posited that they indicate that the Saichania may have been, surprisingly, warm-blooded; equally, however, the complex air passages and hard, bony palate have also been interpreted as cooling devices, to moisten the hot air of the arid desert in which it lived (the hard palate would also allow it to eat tough vegetation). Whatever the mysteries of the skull, this is an undeniably remarkable specimen, with superb bone texture and patination. The thick bones are heavily contoured, and the creamy stone coloring attractively speckled with small blue-black dendrites. The eyes and nostrils are evocatively filled with pale red sandstone matrix, and the mouth, with its distinctive flared "lip", contains a full set of the small, spade-like teeth. A museum-standard specimen of fantastic aesthetic quality, the skull measures 14 inches long by 21 inches wide, raised over a stained oak base 17½ inches high overall.

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