7.7" Fossil Phytosaur Vertebra With Metal Stand - Arizona

This is a beautifully preserved, 7.7" tall, complete phytosaur vertebra that was collected from the Upper Triassic-aged Chinle Formation of Arizona. The specimen shows detailed bone preservation and a naturally associated mini vertebra and phytosaur tooth that has been left attached with rock just above the right transverse process. A truly gorgeous specimen that displays well on the included, custom metal display stand.

Height - 7.7"
Width - 6.5"
Thickness - 2.9"
Height on stand - 8.75"

There are a variety of phytosaurids that come from this location, making it difficult to conclusively identify isolated bones to a specific genus.

There are multiple repaired cracks through the vertebra where it was found broken within the rock. Repairs can be found through the centrum, both transverse processes, the base of each prezygapophysis and the left postzygapophysis, and the spinous process. Through each repaired crack there is some minor gap fill restoration where the bone crumbled away.
Phytosaurs are members of the order Phytosauria. These were semiaquatic, crocodile-like reptiles characterized by long snouts, conical teeth, short legs, heavy tails, and long, low-slung bodies. They also had skin armored with scale-like scutes. However, Phytosaurs are not related to modern Crocodilians. The similarities are an example of parallel evolution, where two different species develop similar characteristics and attributes without a common ancestor.

It is not clearly understood when Phytosaurus evolved, but a number of apparently antecedent species have been found in the fossil record: their relationship to Phytosaurs is still debated. Phytosaurus disappears from the fossil record during the Triassic-Jurassic Extinction, about 200 million years ago.

An artist's reconstruction of a Phytosaur. By Nobu Tamura
An artist's reconstruction of a Phytosaur. By Nobu Tamura

Generally, Phytosaurs looked like modern crocodilians. Some species had longer, thinner snouts with thin conical teeth for catching fish, while others had comparatively shorter, wider snouts with conical teeth in the front and ripping teeth in the back of the mouth. These were likely ambush hunters that snatched prey at the water’s edge, much like modern crocodiles. The longest known Phytosaur was 39 feet long and would have been about as tall as a human at the top of its back. Unlike modern Crocodilians, whose nostrils are at the end of their snouts, Phytosauria had their nostrils at the bases of their snouts, just above or at the same level as their eyes.

Phytosaurs were nearly globally distributed. The result is phytosaur fossils have been found in Europe, North America, India, Thailand, Brazil, Greenland and even Antarctica.
Unidentified Phytosaur
Private Ranch, Northeast Arizona
Chinle Formation
Vertebra dimensions: 7.7 x 6.5 x 2.9" Height on stand: 8.75" tall
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