Q&A

What is this?
This female ichthyosaur is unique because she was carrying two offspring that can be seen clearly in her abdomen, making her a symbol of femininity and motherhood.
Ichthyosaur was an ancient sea monster that ruled the oceans approximately 251 million years ago, 20 million years before dinosaurs came about.  Icthyosaur means “Fish Lizards” in Greek.  They existed for 100 million years.  They were at the top of the marine food chain.

Who originally discovered this type of fossil?
Mary Anning, found the first complete Ichthyosaur skeleton at Lyme Regis in 1811.  She was also famous for her rhyme of “she sells sea-shells on the seashore”.

Where is this piece from?
It was discovered in Southern Germany between 1958 – 1966.  A fully articulated skeleton, the fossil was excavated in Dotternhausen, South Germany at some time between 1958-66 and was in one private ownership collection until 2018. Due to its great importance, it has been the subject of extensive academic research (please see bibliography below).

Is this piece authentic?
Yes, this piece is authentic and has been verified by numerous experts around the globe and accurately tracked with its origin.

Why is the rock cracked?
Fossils are often found within a slate rock.  Many are removed and repaired but this one is in its original form.  The pieces are a puzzle which fit perfectly together.

UNIQUE FOSSIL ICHTHYOSAUR SKELETON, GENUS STENOPTERYGIUS QUADRISCISSUS

350 x 100 cm, 111 x 31ft

The dolphin is one of the world’s most ancient symbols, often representing the harmony between Man and Nature. This amazingly detailed fossil is of a species that evolved in parallel to the dolphin and is almost indistinguishable. It is almost unimaginably ancient, dating from the Lower Jurassic Period that began 201.3 million years ago and lasted for 27.2 million years. 

Like the dolphin, the ichthyosaur was a warm-blooded mammal. Because this one had dived head first into oil-containing shale, it is still in its original matrix and has not been, in common with 99% of such fossils, transferred to a slab for display purposes.

Bituminous shale has played a significant part in the history of the oil industry. With an oil yield of up to 8%, it has been quarried in the regions around Holzmaden, Germany, since the end of the 16thcentury. Today, this oil is still used in the pharmaceutical industry and the finely ground shale is used as a medicinal mud in the Bad Boll spas.

This female ichthyosaur is also most unusual in another way: she was carrying two offspring that can be seen clearly in her abdomen, so making her a symbol of femininity and motherhood.

A fully articulated skeleton, the fossil was excavated in Dotternhausen, South Germany at some time between 1958-66 and was in one private ownership until 2018. Due to its great importance, it has been the subject of extensive academic research (please see bibliography below).

The first complete ichthyosaurus fossil was discovered in Lyme Regis (UK) in 1811 by the extraordinary Mary Anning, a very influential figure in the history of paleontology, not least for being a woman in a field entirely dominated by men, but also for being wholly self-taught. 

In 1840, Sir Richard Owen introduced the order ichthyosauria that today recognizes some 80 species. The name of the order is derived from the Greek, meaning “fish lizards” and the species is an excellent example of convergent evolution. It is currently believed that it evolved from lizards that had left the land for the water, eventually taking a similar form to the fish that constituted its main diet. 

The preparation of this specimen has been meticulous, with the minimum of restoration and artifice, so maintaining most of its original state. It is of museum-quality and an outstanding example that would be star asset in any ambitious collection. Unlike many ichthyosaur skeletons, it is not a composite of fossils but entire and of particular interest through the presence of young in the abdomen.

In summary, this is a very special fossil looking for a very special owner. To quote the renowned expert, Dr Rainer Schoch (Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde in Stuttgart, Germany):

“Our wish would be for this Ichthyosaur, when it is sold, to end up in a place that offers a secure future and allows future scientists to examine the fossil.”

Select bibliography:

BÖTTCHER, R. (1990): Neue Erkenntnisse über die Fortpflanzungsbiologie der Ichthyosaurier (Reptilia). – Stuttgarter Beitr. Natukde., Ser. B, 164: 1-52, 7 pls., 7 figs., 1 tab.; Stuttgart. 

MAISCH, M. W. (2008): Revision der Gattung StenopterygiusJAEKEL, 1904 emend. VON HUENE, 1922 (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) aus dem unteren Jura Westeuropas. – Palaeodiversity, 1: 227-271. 

MAISCH, M. W. & ANSORGE, J. (2004): The Liassic ichthyosaur Stenopterygius cf. quadriscissusfrom the lower Toarcian of Dobbertin (northeastern Germany) and some considerations on lower Toarcian marine reptile paleobiogeography. – Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 78(1): 161-171, 4 figs.; Stuttgart. 

MAXWELL, E. E. (2012): New metrics to differentiate species of Stenopterygius (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Jurassic of southwestern Germany. – Journal of Paleontology, 86: 105–115. 

REISDORF, A. G.; BUX, R.; WYLER, D.; BENECKE, M.; KLUG, C.; MAISCH, M. W.; FORNARO, P. & WETZEL, A. (2012): Float, explode or sink: postmortem fate of lung-breathing marine vertebrates. – Palaeobiodiversity and palaeoenvironments, 92(1): 67-81, 5 Abb., 1 Tab.; Frankfurt a. M.

Pregnant ichthyosaur artist impression