Scientists ask to protect remarkable fossils found in Kazakhstan

The full-sized skeleton of an ichthyosaur, found by school children in the West Kazakhstan region, will be assembled and installed at the School of Mining and Geosciences, Nazarbayev University, the correspondent of reports.

Laurent Richard, Associate Professor of Geology at Nazarbayev University, said that the skeleton will be made available to the public, as well as to researchers interested in studying this ichthyosaur specimen.

Kazakhstanosaurus is the name of the ichthyosaur from the Mesozoic era that was found by young geologists from Uralsk in 2016. Its excavation, supervised by Mrs. Olga Subbotina and the paleontologist, Dr. Vladimir Efimov, who made the initial description, took two years. The discovered ichthyosaur may represent a new genus, previously unknown to the scientific community. The length of the marine predator was 6-7 meters, the length of the skull - more than one meter, limbs - about two meters, and the diameter of the thorax - one meter. Ichthyosaurus eyes were about 20 centimeters. The large animal fed on fish and sea mollusks.

“Mrs. Zhanat Ismailova, Director of Zhas Geolog, an organization promoting the study of geology among high school students, approached us to ask if we would be willing to welcome the ichthyosaur at Nazarbayev University. Being acquainted with ichthyosaurs since my undergraduate studies in Geology at the University of Strasbourg and a visit to the Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, it didn´t take me long to realize that this fossil belongs to the geological heritage of Kazakhstan and that it is important to keep it within the country,” said Laurent Richard.

“There are wealthy collectors all around the world trying to buy such fossils for their private collections. If we wouldn´t have rescued this rare specimen of ichthyosaur, it probably wouldn´t have stayed here for educational and research purposes. This would have been tragic,” confirmed Davit Vasilyan, paleontologist at the Jurassica Museum, Switzerland, who will supervise the restoration work with Laurent Richard.

Fortunately, the ichthyosaur skeleton remained in Kazakhstan. It is planned to be reassembled and installed in the School of Mining and Geosciences at Nazarbayev University in the summer of 2021. “It will, of course, be accessible to the public (especially to children, because they like these things), as well as to scientists. Because it represents a new genus, and because of its exceptional state of conservation, the study of Kazakhstanosaurus will perhaps bring new information about the lifestyle of ichthyosaurs,” said Laurent Richard.

The NU professor concludes by noting that there are other interesting fossils in Kazakhstan, which need to be preserved. “For example, exceptional remains of Jurassic birds have been found in the Karatau mountains, nearly all of which are kept in the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.” It would be a good idea to coordinate efforts of local geologists and paleontologists, to establish an inventory of the paleontological heritage of Kazakhstan, and to preserve this heritage for the future generations.”