Central Europe, Messel Oil Shale Pit - Messel, Germany, Middle Eocene (Geiseltalian), ca. 50 million years ago. A massive, museum-quality fossil specimen of an extinct bowfin fish of the species Cyclurus kehreri (aka Amia), a member of the Holosteans, primitive bony fish represented today by the bowfins and gars. This specimen shows a quality of preservation and completeness that is rarely found on an example of this size! It has superb three-dimensional high relief preservation with an extremely fine level of intact anatomy. The articulation is perfect with the fish laying perfectly on its side, tail slightly dropped. The giant scales can be seen individually. There is a small cavity that lets you see the internal bones of the fish! The head armor plates are all complete and protrude dramatically up off the plate. The spine is very pronounced as it projects in full, un-deformed preservation off the plate through the original fossilized skin. Size: 32" W x 13.5" H (81.3 cm x 34.3 cm)
The mouth is open and seen from a ventral angle, showing teeth and teeth sockets. The original, natural color in the fossil is beautiful, with extensive preserved skin over the bones and spine. The fin rays are present with superb detail and the caudal fin is complete to the very delicate edges of the fin as seen above in the close-up image.
One of the most scientifically famous fossil deposits in the world can be found at the Messel Pit near Messel, Germany, 35 km southeast of Frankfurt. The site occupies 70 hectares and the mine pit is 1000 meters long and 700 meters wide. The ground level of the area surrounding the pit is approximately 200 meters above sea level with the original pit floor extending to a depth of 60 meters. The oil shale deposits extend further below this floor to an additional 120 to 130 meters. The site is so rich in a unique array of preserved fauna that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995 and is now internationally protected. The fossil deposits at Messel date back to the Middle Eocene Period ( Geiseltalian Period) or 50 million years ago. The site was a former lake during this time. The surrounding shore region is believed to have been subjected to periodic poisonous gas attacks emerging from the lake bed due to tectonic activity explaining the abundance of well-preserved terrestrial vertebrates near the original lake shore. The lake was also a deep body of water with nearly zero turbidity at the lower strata. This deeper part of the lake was also anoxic, that is, it had little to no dissolved oxygen so it could not support any aquatic life-forms that needed to breathe underwater. This unique set of circumstances meant that any fauna that died in the lake and sunk to the bottom would not have readily decomposed, been disturbed by predators or scattered by water currents. Combined with very low rate of sedimentary deposition resulted in the extraordinarily well-preserved fossils that are found now.
The Messel flora and fauna represent the finest examples preserved of this period ever discovered. The quality of preservation is astonishing ranging from preserved soft body tissue and stomach contents of many vertebrate specimens to preserved distinct metallic colorations in its insect fossils. Whole skeletons are found perfectly articulated and complete with dark regions of preserved hair, feathers and skin. Original complex prehistoric chemical compositions of the deposit are also still intact allowing scientists to study these "chemical fossils" and thereby reconstruct the paleoecology and paleo biological processes of the site 50 million years ago! The rich array of specimens includes 40 new species comprising rare mammal (both ground-dwelling and avian), fish, insect, amphibian, reptile and plant remains.
Provenance: acquired in 2010 from a German collector in the USA
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