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    Description

    FOSSIL FISH: A PERFECTLY PRESERVED FOSSIL PERCH
    Palaeoperca proxima
    Eocene, Messel Formation
    Messel, Landkreis Darmstadt-Dieburg, Hesse, Germany

    About the time that the Fossil Lake Lagerst├Ątte of Wyoming was in full swing, accumulating the various plants and animals that would later become fossils, there was a European locality that was doing the exact same thing, at the same time, in Germany, near Darmstadt: a place called Messel. At this site some 47.5 million years ago, a volcanic eruption of rather modest scale left behind a caldera that swiftly became a deep lake. As things quieted down volcanic rubble in the form of basaltic pebbles, gravel and sand covered the bottom of the lake and later algal "blooms" took over with a vengeance, providing hydrocarbon rich remains that mingled with rotting vegetation, muds and clays on the bottom of the lake. Over time the multiple algal blooms caused the lower depths of the lake to become anoxic and stagnant. Animals living in the oxygenated, near-surface waters would, after expiring, sink down into the anoxic zone where scavengers larger than microbes in size, were absent. After perishing, the remains slowly settled to the floor of the lake where the animals were slowly covered with a constant, slow "rain" of dust and algal detritus, that also provided the perfect environment for Iron based compounds to deposit on the skin, feathers and fur, as well as the skeletal material of the "new arrivals." These iron compounds were probably derived from mineralized volcanic springs in the lake bottom, that contributed H2S, CO2 and other atypical chemicals. The Iron compounds crystallized on the organic remains and thereby stopped further decomposition. Which is why Messel fossils frequently show, rarely seen soft tissues that have been preserved, along with the more common skeletal structures. That is the reason for the almost perfect, three-dimensional preservation shown by the Paleoperca proxima offered in this Lot. Not only are all of the bones, fins and spines perfectly rendered, the scales and the form of the muscles are captured as well. The "matrix" for this finely preserved 7.25 inch (18.41 cm) perch is a stable, transparent resin that replaces the water-logged and structurally incompetent oil-shale that such fossils are found within. The preparation process involves keeping the fossil damp while removing, by hand, the overlying oil-shale from one side of the fossil, often with fine brushes and needles. When that excavation is finished, a thin layer of a synthetic resin is poured over the specimen and allowed to harden. Inverting the specimen now allows the preparator to carefully remove oil-shale from the other side of the fossil. When finished, only traces of the original matrix remain, along with the fossil organism. Every Messel specimen must undergo this painstaking process. After almost being used as a dump, the site was purchased by the Bundesland of Hessen in 1991 and the locality was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Amateur collecting is now forbidden, but fossils such as this one that predate 1995 are legal to transfer and own.
    Overall Measurements: 13.5 x 8.16 x 0.25 inches (34.29 x 20.72 x 0.64 cm)


    Estimate: $1,800 - $2,200.

    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
    September, 2014
    28th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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