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    Stenopterygius quadriscissus
    Lower Jurassic, lias epsilon
    Posidonienschiefer Formation, Holzmaden, Germany
    A first-class specimen from one of the world's premier collecting localities, this exceptional example of the great aquatic reptile is one of the finest a collector could hope to find. Faultless in detail and preservation, even the finest bones are visible in superb definition: a slender rostrum with small pointed teeth protruding, a large sclerotic ring to support the eyeball (proportionately the largest of any animal ever to have lived), characterful disc-like bones of the paddles, a mass of elegantly curving rib-bones, and large three-dimensional vertebrae. Those areas apparently lacking, the dorsal and tail fins, in fact had no bony structure to be preserved but their presence is artfully conjured in the viewer's imagination through the skill of the preparator. Not only is the skeleton itself perfectly preserved, but details in the body suggest remnants of the creature's last meal in the stomach area, and most remarkable of all, a mass of smaller bones are visible near the rear of this mother Ichthyosaur - those of an unborn embryo. The skull and skeleton of the baby are disarticulated, suggesting a relatively early stage of development, but the details are perfectly visible, even down to the creature's tiny teeth.

    Very few "mother" Ichthyosaurids with an embryonic skeleton inside have been discovered. In fact, there are only about 7 other similar specimens known and all but one are in Museums. In 1972 the German Government issued a law protecting these specimens prohibiting them to be sold or exported. However, the present specimen was issued a permit from the Natural History Museum of Stuttgart allowing it to be sold. A copy of this permit is included with the specimen allowing the prospective buyer a rare and unique opportunity to own an important paleontological masterpiece.

    Preparation of this 7 foot, 4 inch long specimen is particularly fine, and a particular challenge given the detail within the mother creature's womb; a special micro-sandblaster was used to expose the tiny delicate bones of the unborn offspring and there was only one small area of restoration required; at the tip of the tail. As is usual with the unstable material from Holzmaden, this incredible fossil has been mounted in a fine 94¼ x 42½-inch plate of Flein shale from the same area.

    The Ichthyosaur - Greek for "fish lizard" - first appeared 250 million years ago, 20 million years before the first dinosaur, and became extinct about 25 million years before their land-dwelling counterparts (about 90 million years ago). They seem to have evolved from land-dwelling reptiles who returned to the oceans; the structure of their flippers suggesting that the bones evolved from a form more similar to an arm and a hand, with fingers and a thumb-like appendage. Once back in the water, the Ichthyosaur developed a shape built for speed, similar to today's tuna, with elongated snout, sleek body and powerful propulsive flippers. It retained the need to breath air, but as it became more adapted to life in the water (like today's cetaceans it was a deep diver) it lost the ability to return to land to lay eggs, and became viviparous, producing young through live birth in shallow waters (also like today's cetaceans).

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2011
    12th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 6,763

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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