Rare Ichthyosaur - Stenopterygius hauffianus - Marine Reptile - 8.7 feet

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This breathtaking Ichthyosaur fossil (a marine reptile) is a magnificent find from the Holzmaden Shale near Stuttgart, Germany, a fossil locale renowned for its incredibly preserved specimens. This rare type of ichthyosaur (Stenopterygius hauffianus) is recognized by its distinctive short beak. Few complete examples of this species have surfaced on the market and this is undoubtedly one of the best on record. 

It is an extremely unique and captivating piece due to its completeness, well-articulated skeleton, massive size (8.7 feet), overall aesthetic beauty and rarity - likely fewer than 10 specimens have been found to date. Remarkably, its last meals (squid and other cephalopods) are preserved in its stomach cavity (the dark area beneath its ribs). With all of these fantastic characteristics present, it truly belongs to the upper echelon of fine fossils and would be the focal point of any home or public setting.

Considerable time and skill was needed to reveal this specimen from the matrix - 5 months of meticulous, specialized labour in a German preparatory facility. It is also equipped with a heavy-duty steel frame and hanging moulds.  

  • Formation: Posidonia Shale 
  • Location: Holzmaden, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
  • Age: Lower Jurassic, Toarcian, Lias epsilon 2 (approximately 182 million years old).
  • Specimen measures 8.7 feet / 265 cm long. Matrix measures 10.8 feet / 330 cm x 5.25 feet / 160 cm. Weighs approximately 660 lbs. / 300 kg. 
  • Certificate of authenticity included
  • Only minor restoration on tip of tail (approximately 5 cm)

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Ichthyosaurs made their first appearance on this planet as land dwelling reptiles that braved the oceans before there were dinosaurs. They were the dominant predators of the Mesozoic for 157 million years. Their size range was remarkable: some species were only 70 centimetres long (close to the size of the present day marine iguana from the Galapagos) to giants upwards of 20 meters! 

Ichthyosaurs changed dramatically throughout their evolution, starting as elongated lizard-like reptiles that navigated through the warm seas with side to side eel-like movements. Later, they transformed into super fast deep-diving killing machines with a shortened, heavy body, dramatically changed front and hind limbs, and backbone with disc shaped vertebrae. Their eel-like swimming morphed into explosive tuna like rocketing.

Some ichthyosaur species had the largest eyes of any creature on earth - over 26 cm. That surpasses the eyes of the largest mammals, both terrestrial and aquatic – the elephant and great blue whale. Imagine an eye larger than a soccer ball!

Ichthyosaurs were highly adapted to their environment. It is estimated that they could dive to depths of 600 meters (probably in search of their cephalopod dinners) and hold their breath for about 20 minutes.

There are many theories regarding their extinction, which occurred 28 million years before the mass extinction of dinosaurs. New data supports the idea that global warming during the Late Cretaceous changed the marine ecosystems and may have contributed to their demise.


Living Room Image - Copyright: skdesign / 123RF Stock Photo

Nature recently published an amazing news feature on ichthyosaurs, rich with the latest information about these amazing animals and wonderful infographics. Read Traci Watson's feature here.

More excellent ichthyosaur information - including their evolution and extinction - can be found in a 2016 article by Valentin Fischer et al. (Nature Communications 7, article number 10825). Read it here.

A comprehensive and accesible online resource about Ichthyosaurs, by Ryosuke Motani, can be found here.



Icthyosaur reconstruction - Stenopterygius

Artist's reconstruction of Stenopterygius. Credit: Nobu Tamura