Xiphactinus audax
    Cretaceous, Santonian
    Niobrara Chalk, Western Kansas, USA

    This vicious-looking prehistoric bony fish roamed the warm shallow waters of the Niobraran Sea, or Western Interior Seaway, that split the continent of America in two halves for a large proportion of the Cretaceous period. A ferocious 20-foot long predator, it was second in the food chain only to the sharks, such as the Squalicorax, and to the monstrous Mososaur in these 85 million years old waters. The most famous example is a 15-footer with a complete 6-foot ichthyodectid Gillicus in its belly, to be found in the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays, Kansas. First named in 1870 by Joseph Leidy, it remains still the object of a certain amount of nominal confusion, having been superfluously named the following year by E.D. Cope Portheus molossus. Although the Xiphactinus has no living relatives, it resembled a giant fanged tarpon and is known colloquially as the Bulldog fish; this dramatic specimen certainly conjures the strength and viciousness of its namesake, with the powerful jaws preserved in remarkable three-dimensionality, the left maxilla prepared entirely free from the matrix, bristling with frightful teeth (the longest measures 2 inches). In fact, these teeth were used primarily for securing its prey, as the Xiphactinus was in the habit of swallowing its meals whole, a dangerous practice that could result in severe damage to its internal anatomy as the smaller fish struggled in its death throes. The massive bony skull dominates the matrix, complete with the sclerotic ring that supported the eyeball, but also present is the pectoral fin, with fine three-dimensionality and texture throughout. With a strong dark brown coloring, the whole piece leaps vividly from the pale cream 52 x 34-inch irregular matrix, fully conjuring the aggressive and forceful nature of the fish.

    Estimate: $18,000 - $22,000.

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    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    6th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,276

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