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Messel Fossils

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 Messel Fossils

Fossil Gar Atractosteus strausi
Messel Pit, Darmstadt, Germany
Middle Eocene - 47 MYA
Matrix: 40 x 30 cm, fossil: 28 cm

This is a fine example of a gar from the Messel Pit oil shale deposits. The genus persists until today, with the Alligator Gar from the southern United States a typical example whose morphology is quite similar to this fossil specimen. This specimen is with a length of 28 cm in the range of the largest found. Notice the rhomboid armor-like scales. They are covered in ganoin which gives them a shiny appearance. The present Alligator Gar is reputed to be able to turn away small caliber bullets shot at them by hunters. 
This offer is a good chance to catch a high quality fossil at a reasonable price.


About Messel

The Middle Eocene oil-shales of Messel are unique in possessing a fortuitous combination of conditions, resulting in an exceptionally high percentage of fossil remains with soft tissue preservation. These same conditions necessitate an equally unique preparation technique. The fine example of a gar presented here was upon discovery, kept in wet newspapers until it reached the 'prep lab', where careful excavation exposed one side of the fish, at which time that surface was covered with a clear epoxy resin. After hardening, the other side was freed from its wet oil-shale matrix as well and that side was embedded in epoxy also. This is the only way the great detail of Messel fossils such as this gar can be preserved. The result is perfect preservation of the diamond shaped Ganoid scales of the skin and the wonderful bone structure of the skull plates and fins. Even the teeth are visible within the finely preserved jaw structures. The Messel site has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the only one designated strictly because of its fossils. The site is now closed to all but academic research and any examples of the wonderfully preserved Gars or other animals can only be obtained from existing collections. Visit Messel!

Fossiland, Chris Leins, has a special relationship to the Messel pit

  • As student and volunteer in "protest" I took part in excavations in Messel at 1987, organized by the Tübingen University and Senckenberg Museum Frankfurt, at a time when the danger threatened that the pit would be filled and that it would no longer be accessible to science.
  • As a research assistant, I prepared for the Tübingen Geological Insitute Messel fossils that were found during these excavations and were added later on to the museum's fundus.
  • The transfer method, developed as state of the art preparation of Messel fossils, is applied by me also to fossils from other sites, like Holzmaden and Bundenbach.

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