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High Quality Dinosaur Vertebrae?


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I found this fossil on on a beach in the north of france and picked it up and suddenly realised what it was. It may have been washed across the sea from the English coast. I wanted to find out if it is a dinosaur fossil and what it was if possible. Size: Length of 6cm, width of 2.5cm and height of 6cm. Thank you for any help :)





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+1 for ichthyosaur. 

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Hi Zip and Welcome to the forum!

Your title asks if this is a high quality dinosaur vertebra.

So, as others mentioned, yes, it is a fossil vertebra. No, it is not from a dinosaur very likely, but from a marine reptile of the "dinosaur era".

High quality in fossils usually means good preservation of detail, so I would say rather medium low for this one. But on the other hand I have been collecting fossils for over 30 years now and never found a marine reptiles vertebra. So  that should be quality enough to keep it.

If you are thinking about a market price, that is not a question for this forum, but do not go buying a car in expectation ;)



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Ichthyosaur cervical vertebra, upside down. The preservation is medium (water-worn but main features visible)

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  • 2 weeks later...

A very warm welcome to TTF still, and happy New Year! I hope you'll find much enjoyment browsing through the forum ;)


On 12/22/2020 at 7:25 PM, RuMert said:

Ichthyosaur cervical vertebra, upside down. The preservation is medium (water-worn but main features visible)

I agree, ichthyosaur cervical vertebra. Thus, not dinosaur, but marine reptile, albeit of the same age (almost certainly Jurassic). You can tell by both shape and the pachyosticity of the bone, which is typical of marine reptiles as it helps them achieve neutral buoyancy. See the below illustration from McGowan & Motani (2003, Ichthyopterygia from the Handbook of Palaeoherpetology series) for the progression of cervical, dorsal and caudal vertebrae in ichthyosaurs:




I'd say the preservation is rather poor, though, seeing as very little remains of either bone cortex or the bone's internal vascular system. Still, you can recognize the shape, and plenty of ichthyosaur vertebrae are found in like condition. So, though there won't be much of a market value to this piece, it's a lovely piece to hang on to for sentimental reasons, all the same. It's not all that often you'll find an ichthyosaur vertebrae fossil hunting (depends on where you go looking for them, of course, but even then...). And if you consider that an animal has less vertebrae in their neck then in their back, then finding a cervical vertebrae is even rarer ;)

Lastly, I'm not sure where exactly you found the vertebra, but there are plenty of sites along the coast of northern France where marine reptile material may be found, many of them of similar age as sites across the channel, and with mostly comparable palaeo-assemblages.

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