Of all the richest fossil-bearing deposits ever known, Brazil's Santana Formation is ranked among the world's greatest. Santana fossils are known for not only their extreme diversity but more importantly, for the nature of their breath-taking preservation - considered by scientists to include the finest examples of fossils in existence. The formation provides an amazing window into the paleobiota of a prehistoric world from the Lower Cretaceous, 110 million years ago. The Santana fossils of Brazil were first recorded in the year 1828 by two natural historians, Dr. J. B. von Spix and Dr. C. F. P. von Martius, commissioned by the king of Bavaria. To this day, they are still being studied with many new discoveries coming to light.
Just completed from preparation in our lab is this large and spectacular Paraelops sp. fish fossil from the Santana Formation of Brazil. Paraelops sp. is a member of the ELOPOMORPHS and it along with Brannerion (another species found in the Santana Formation) make up the world's oldest forms of modern bonefish. Paraelops is an ALBULID or ALBULIFORM, a bonefish that shares unique larval stage with tarpons and eels. Because the anatomy of this fish is very delicate, fine quality complete specimens of this species are VERY RARE and an example like this is unrivaled.
We have looked in numerous museum collection reference publications and scientific articles, as well as fossil books, and no where can we find an example of this fish that is better than what we are offering here. We have seen numerous fake and worthless composite examples of this fossil on the market - made from multiple fish (head of one glued onto the body of another and the tail of a third). We have seen other dealers selling fossil Notelops as a Paraelops! We have seen some dealers that have placed this geode-based fossil inset into a stone slab which defaces and SUBSTANTIALLY reduces the value of the specimen. No where though, will you find an example of this fish in this pristine condition and with the rare anatomical features it possesses.
We fully prepared this MUSEUM-GRADE specimen in our lab and extra effort was invested in the piece due to the original quality of the geode. Extra time was spent removing the stone embedded in the eye orbit. In doing so, we were pleased to see a perfectly intact GIANT cornea lens still articulated with its sclerotic ring which several photos above highlight. The fin detail and intactness is impeccable. MOST RARE is the open mouth. This fish has a huge gape and with very tiny teeth. We left a stone margin to protect the teeth and all the teeth are still plainly visible. This is the first time we can recall seeing teeth present in a Paraelops fossil from Santana!!!! Fin and scale detail is as good as it gets with ALL FINS preserved and complete. A small portion of the skin in the middle of the body is missing which interestingly, reveals a perfectly preserved skeletal thoracic spine array below.
Nearly every concretionary Brazil fossil on the market and in museums is of the Jardim or Santana type. This can be seen by the beige to cream color of the concretion and the light brown to gold color of the fossils. Old Mission concretions are harder and the rock in the core is dark gray or olive with the fossils being much darker. The lithology of Old Mission concretions is also one of a much harder substance. Because of this, the Old Mission concretions yield much better preserved fossils. We have not seen any true Old Mission concretion fossils on the market in years. Perhaps it is because the deposit has long since been over-collected of these type concretions. This specimen IS an Old Mission concretion and it shows such incredible and well-detailed preservation, we can easily say this is the finest and most beautiful example of this fish we have ever seen in any museum or publication.
If you wish to own probably the finest example of a Paraelops Santana fossil known, then this is a once-in-lifetime chance to make it happen. This prehistoric, dinosaur-era fish fossil is EXCEPTIONALLY RARE, huge and one of the most impressive fossil fish you will ever experience.
Our past purchase of a very old private European collection has provided us with this spectacular specimen that goes well beyond the quality and completeness of anything we have seen in either private hands or in museum collections. In comparison, the definitive illustrated work on these fossils, written by curator John G. Maisey titled "Santana Fossils", is illustrated with numerous prized specimens owned by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York. The specimen we offer here, far exceeds the quality of the finest specimens shown from the American Museum publication. With this example, there is no comparison to the "butchered" concretionary Brazilian fossils that are crudely split with chisels to reveal the fossil inside.
Caution must be exercised in Brazil concretion fish fossils. MANY are pieced together with parts of multiple fish to make a single fish but THIS species of fish is one of the MOST COMMONLY FAKED type because of its long length and nature of being found broken and incomplete or poorly preserved. All too often, we see examples on the market that are the tail of one fish, body of another and the head of a third, all glued together to make a single fish. Compare this one above to ones in suspect and you may see the incontinuity of the fossil's anatomy and shape, in question.
In John Maisey's book titled "Santana Fossils", he cites the prevalence of fake, composite and enhanced fossils from this formation that are on the market. The local artisans at the sites produce a wide variety of artificially created fossils - some horribly obvious yet some, extremely convincing out of carefully matched composite pieces. These composite examples are very convincing because they are made up of all real pieces but not necessarily of the same species! Often, missing parts are carved or sculpted from a mixture of plaster, rock dust and epoxy and then painted to disguise the work. A number of these handcrafted "fossils" have in the past, and continue to, make it into the mainstream fossil market. Describing a variety of techniques and types of fakes, Maisey even shows photographs of some fakes for reference to illustrate the breadth, creativity and skill of some of these workers. He also addresses the prevalence of fake insect and other rare fossils within the text. With all Brazilian fossils, collectors should approach prospective purchases with caution for not only the legality of the specimen but also, for accurate disclosure by a qualified and experienced preparator of any artificial enhancement to the specimen.