8-foot-long ichthyosaur fossil preserved for 180 million years tipped to sell for more than £500,000

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The complete fossil of a 180-million-year-old marine reptile is being auctioned for more than £500,000.

It is the skeleton of an ichthyosaur – a Jurassic predator about 8 feet (2.4 m) long – and was preserved in soft carbonate mud before excavation.

This specimen was discovered in the early 2000s in a geological formation in Lorraine, France, during the construction of the TGV high-speed train.

Since the majority of complete ichthyosaur fossils belong to museums, those appearing on the private market usually command high prices.

This will go on sale at Bonhams in Paris on December 13 and is expected to go for hundreds of thousands.

Claudia Florian, advisory director of Bonham’s natural history department, said: ‘This skeleton is extremely complete with over 80 percent original bones in total.

‘It is the first time that such a complete specimen, found in France, has been offered at auction.’

This specimen was discovered in the early 2000s in a geological formation in Lorraine, France, during the construction of the high-speed train TGV

Ichthyhosaurs - meaning

Ichthyhosaurs – meaning “fish lizards” in Greek – were a type of reptile that flourished between 252 and 90 million years ago in the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods

This fossil will go on sale December 13 at Bonhams in Paris and is expected to go for hundreds of thousands

This fossil will go on sale December 13 at Bonhams in Paris and is expected to go for hundreds of thousands

Claudia Florian, advisory director of Bonham's natural history department, said: 'This skeleton is extremely complete with over 80 percent original bones in total'

Claudia Florian, advisory director of Bonham’s natural history department, said: ‘This skeleton is extremely complete with over 80 percent original bones in total’

WHAT WERE ICHYTHYOSAURUSES?

Ichthyosaurs were a highly successful group of seagoing reptiles that became extinct about 90 million years ago.

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They appeared during the Triassic, peaked during the Jurassic, and disappeared during the Cretaceous.

Often misidentified as swimming dinosaurs, these reptiles appeared before the first dinosaurs had appeared.

They evolved from an as yet unidentified terrestrial reptile that moved back into the water.

Scientists have calculated that one species had a cruising speed of 36 km/h.

The largest species of ichthyosaur is believed to have grown to more than 20 meters in length.

The largest complete ichthyologist fossil ever discovered, at 11 feet (3.5 m), was found to have a fetus still in its womb.

She added: ‘Complete and well-preserved specimens are rare.

“Some of the best-known specimens tend to be flattened in mud-rock deposits, so it’s quite rare to find a specimen, like this, where not only is the skeleton well represented, but the bones are in three dimensions.” have been preserved. ‘

Ichtyhosaurs — meaning “fish lizards” in Greek — were a reptilian genus that thrived between 252 and 90 million years ago in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods.

Originating from the ocean, they migrated to land before eventually evolving back into the water.

They are known for their fish-like shape, which resembles today’s dolphins, but are often misidentified as swimming dinosaurs.

The first complete ichthyosaur skeleton was found in 1811 in Lyme Regis, Dorset, by 12-year-old English paleontologist Mary Anning.

In 1840, the order ichthyosauria was introduced by the English biologist Sir Richard Owen, and today about 80 species are recognized.

The auctioned fossil is one of the best preserved and fully displayed of its kind.

Thousands of bones were individually excavated and rebuilt for its creation, before being mounted on a brass stand.

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Ms Florian said: ‘Extraordinary skill and precision not only made it possible to extract the fossilized bones from the matrix one by one, but also made it possible to rebuild the skeleton in 3D.

‘Only a handful of ichthyosaurs have ever been reconstructed in this way.

“This individual specimen represents more than two years of work by a specialist.

‘This species of ichthyosaur, in particular Stenopterygius, has not been studied in depth and there is very little literature on it.

“This sale is a unique and interesting opportunity for scientific research by a museum or private collector.”

The auctioned fossil is one of the best preserved and fully displayed of its kind

Thousands of bones were individually excavated and rebuilt for its creation, before being mounted on a brass stand

The auctioned fossil is one of the best preserved and fully displayed of its kind. Thousands of bones were individually excavated and rebuilt for its creation, before being mounted on a brass stand

Since the majority of complete ichthyosaur fossils belong to museums, those that appear on the private market usually command high prices

Since the majority of complete ichthyosaur fossils belong to museums, those that appear on the private market usually command high prices

In May, a 139-million-year-old ichthyosaur fossil unearthed in Chile was found to be pregnant with several babies at the time of its death.

The remains of the creature, named Fiona, were unearthed by researchers from a melting glacier deep in Patagonia.

The find added to evidence that ichthyosaurs gave birth to live young, unlike egg-laying dinosaurs.

The first known pregnant ichthyosaur fossil was discovered in 1749 and scientifically described in 1842.

It was the largest complete fossil ever documented at 3.5 meters in length.

The remains of the creature, named Fiona, were unearthed by researchers from a melting glacier deep in Patagonia

The remains of the creature, named Fiona, were unearthed by researchers from a melting glacier deep in Patagonia

Another ichthyosaur fossil was found in 2021 at the bottom of the Rutland Water reservoir in the Midlands and has been hailed as one of the greatest finds in British fossil history.

It was the largest and most complete skeleton found in the UK, measuring 33 feet (10 meters) in length and with a skull weighing a ton.

The specimen lived about 180 million years ago and was found when the reservoir was being drained to improve habitat for breeding birds.

A team of paleontological experts from across the UK had to remove the giant skeleton with a tractor.

Another ichthyosaur fossil was found in 2021 at the bottom of the Rutland Water reservoir in the Midlands, hailed as one of the greatest finds in British fossil history

Another ichthyosaur fossil was found in 2021 at the bottom of the Rutland Water reservoir in the Midlands, hailed as one of the greatest finds in British fossil history

Paleontologists spent 14 days excavating the find before it was removed in August 2021

Paleontologists spent 14 days excavating the find before it was removed in August 2021

Ichthyosaurs had BLUBBER just like whales

From seals to whales, many marine animals have a thick layer of fat, known as blubber, directly under their skin.

Now, a new study has shown for the first time that ichthyosaurs — ancient marine reptiles that lived 150 million years ago — also had blubber.

Scientists from the Natural History Museum in Oslo have been studying the remains of an ichthyosaur discovered in the Solnhofen area of ​​southern Germany.

The specimen includes the complete internal skeleton, which the team says is astonishingly well preserved thanks to the blubber.

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