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    Description

    INCREDIBLY RARE FOSSIL SNAKE
    Boidae
    Eocene
    Messel, Germany

    One of the rarest of all creatures preserved in the fossil record is the snake, and they are practically unknown outside of this Eocene locality in south-western Germany. 50 million years ago a large series of lakes surrounded by lush sub-tropical forest covered what is now the Messel mining pit, to which animals would come to drink from the deceptively still waters. Scientists have hypothesized that the area around the Messel pit was geologically and tectonically active during this period, and that occasional releases of noxious, toxic gas from beneath the water caused the sudden death and fossil deposits of numerous non-aquatic species. What is more, the bottom of the lake seemed to have experienced very little current disturbance, meaning that bioturbation by other species was kept to a minimum, and the slow anoxic deposition of mud and dead vegetation created exceptional conditions for fossilization - some specimens have been recovered with preserved fur, feathers or even skin shadows. In other localities, the incredible fragility of the snake's skeleton would not have survived the weighty pressures of the fossilization process, but we have here a beautifully preserved example, with exceptional detail right along the length of its body. It boasts clearly defined curving ribs and vertebrae and superb three-dimensionality. The Boidae are a family of non-venomous snakes that kill their prey by constriction; the present example would have measured approximately 16½ inches in length uncoiled, and is mounted in a synthetic matrix 12¼ x 9 inches; like the famous deposits at Holzmaden, the oil shale at Messel is extremely fragile. Removing the fossils with the conventional method of field jackets would be disastrous, and so excavators pour resin in situ to remove their finds; this is then taken to the preparator's lab where it is turned upside down and the matrix slowly and carefully removed from the underside.


    Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000.

    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. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2009
    18th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,385

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