January 15, 2008

Giant Aquatic Lizard Fossil Installed in Burke Room

A 145-million-year old fossil marine reptile measuring 21 feet (6.4 m) in length was permanently installed in the Burke Museum on Tues., Jan. 15. The complete fossil skeleton, originally collected in Germany, is known as an ichthyosaur (meaning "fish lizard").

Painting of Ichthyosaurus by Heinrich Harder 
Ichthyosaurs (pronounced ik-thea-sores) are giant marine reptiles that lived in the oceans of the Mesozoic Era, while dinosaurs roamed the land. Though fish-like in shape, ichthyosaurs breathed air like whales and dolphins and gave birth to live young. Ichthyosaurs coexisted with other giant marine reptiles such as mosasaurs and plesiosaurs, also on display at the Burke Museum.

The ichthyosaur specimen is a major recent acquisition for the Burke Museum, donated by the Hart Family. Additional fossils from the Harts, including the mosasaur skeleton recently installed by Burke paleontologists in Hitchcock Hall on the University of Washington campus, join more than 2.75 million other specimens of fossil invertebrates, fossil vertebrates, fossil plants, and modern mollusks in the Burke Museum's paleontology collection.

Burke staff and associates unload the fossil

Burke Museum Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Christian Sidor with fossil

The ichthyosaur fossil on the Burke Room wall.