This is a fine example of a gar from the oil shale Messel Pit
deposits of Darmstadt, Germany, known as Atractosteus strausi.
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. While examples from
as small as 10 cm to nearly 1 meter are known, most fall between
20-30 cm in length. Notice the rhomboid armor-like scales.
They are covered in ganoin which gives
them a shiny appearance. The extant Alligator Gar is reputed
to be able to turn away
small caliber bullets shot at them by hunters.
~50 million year old deposits are famous for their exceptionally
organisms, some of which have the remains of their last meal
preserved within. Soft tissue preservation is a common event
in material from the pit, and that is seen here in preservation
of much of the specimen, including the detailed scales. Due
to this fragility of the oil shale, this specimen, like all
from the locality, has been embedded in resin to allow preparation.
The fossil is then flipped over and the matrix removed on
the opposite side. A final coating of resin serves to preserve
the specimen as seen here. There is a faint repair to the
portion, but it does little to detract from the overall appearance
of the primitive-looking fish that richly deserves the appellation “living
fossil”. This fine example is offered at price that while
seeming higher than some you may see on the web but is an excellent,
original specimen. Casts have been made of it in the past,
but this is the original. The name of the source can be found
on the label on the reverse.