7 Articulated Ichthyosaurus (Stenopterygius) Vertebra - Germany


This is a beautifully prepared string of seven articulated Ichthyosaur (Stenopterygius sp.) vertebrae. The entire string measures 5.7" long and all of the vertebrae are very three dimensional, with partial processes attached. It was collected from the Upper Lias - Lower Jurassic, Posidonia Shale of South Western, Germany. A very aesthetic display piece, comes with an acrylic display stand.

Artists reconstruction of an Ichthyosaur.  Image Credit: Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com/)
Artists reconstruction of an Ichthyosaur. Image Credit: Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com/)
("Fish Lizard") was a giant marine reptile which thrived from much of the Mesozoic era. They evolved in the mid Triassic from a group of unidentified land reptiles which transitioned back into the water. This line evolved in parallel fashion to the ancestors of today's dolphins and whales, something known as convergent evolution.

Ichthyosaurs were swordfish-like marine reptiles of the order Ichthyosauria. They had torpedo-shaped bodies with long, narrowly pointed jaws, large pectoral fins, and crescent-shaped tails. They were the high-speed predators of the Jurassic seas, indicating they ate a fish diet. This is confirmed by analysis of coprolites (fossil feces). They evolved about 250 million years ago, hitting their diversity apex during the Jurassic: there are currently 97 known genera. They may be descended from diapsids like dinosaurs and birds, but a recent theory suggests they may have descended from a distant relative of turtles. Ichthyosaurus had disappeared from the fossil record by about 90 million years ago. It is not known why they died out.

A fossil of the Ichthyosaur Stenopterygius.  Creative Commons License
A fossil of the Ichthyosaur Stenopterygius. Creative Commons License

Ichthyosaurs are not fish. Their resemblance to them is an example of two groups adapting to their environment with similar adaptations without having a common ancestor, otherwise known as convergent evolution. Ichthyosaurs were reptiles with lungs that had to surface to breathe, while fish have gills that take dissolved oxygen from water. Ichthyosaurs looked like swordfish or dolphins: their bodies were larger near the head and tapered to a sleek, crescent-shaped tail.

Ichthyosaurs had one of the largest eyes relative to body size of any organism. This may allowed them to better move throughout the water column to find prey, reaching tremendous speeds with their crescent tails. Some estimates put the top speed of the fastest species above 30 miles per hour. Like most fish living today, Ichthyosaurus was likely dark colored on its back and sides and light on its belly as a form of camouflage.

Stenopterygius sp.
Holzmaden, Nr. Stuttgart, Bavaria, Germany
Posidonia Shale
5.7" long
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