Heliobatus radians
    Green River Formation, Wyoming, USA

    Many of the aquatic animals that lived in the Fossil Lake of the Green River formation were descendants of marine species cut off from the oceans as the North American continents rose slowly from the primordial waters that covered much of the globe. This is the reason why the fossil remains of the traditionally ocean-dwelling sting-ray are found in this once fresh-water location. Like their modern-day descendants, these prehistoric fish were placid bottom dwellers, the fearsome tail barbs providing an excellent deterrent to predators that might otherwise have enjoyed them as a tasty dinner. As might be expected, the remains of these thin, delicate flat fish are rare; their skeletons, like those of sharks and skates, are made up of the dense connective tissue known as cartilage, a characteristic highly antipathetic to fossilization. The strata of the "18-inch layer" of the Fossil Lake make it relatively easy to remove the abundant fossils found there, but the incredibly delicate "wing" bones of the ray present one of the greatest challenges to the excavator, having the thickness of only two sheets of paper. The preparator's skill is likewise keenly tested in its presentation, and the fine detail of the present example is testament to a master of this most painstaking art. The ray itself has been inset into the matrix and displays a wingspan of 6½ inches and an elegantly curving tail with a dynamically raised spinal column and fine detail to the impossibly delicate structure of the pectoral fins. Milling around it on the plaque are over twenty specimens of the herring-like Knightia that shared these ancient waters, most of which are complete, and display the same remarkably fine detail. The pale orange-brown color of the fossils stands in soft and pleasing contrast to the irregularly-shaped pale limestone matrix, which measures 34 x 24 inches.

    Estimate: $3,500 - $4,500.

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    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. 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: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 720

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