Prehistoric fish fossil found in southern Colorado; one of only three in the world

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. — Nearly 92 million years ago, a prehistoric fish was part of the seas.

“Going off of certain, really close relatives from the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous of Europe, we think that this kind of eel-like animal is about 10 feet long or so,” said Anthony Maltese, curator at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center.

Paleontologists with the U.S. Forest Service said it was an accidental discovery.

The fossil was discovered on the U.S. Forest Service Comanche National Grassland in southeastern Colorado in 2012.

It took a little over three years to complete and study the fossil, which is only one of three in the world.

“It was peculiar, it was a different sort of fish. And then it was a few weeks later, we actually excavated the skull and realized that it was completely alien, something we didn’t expect at all,” said Bruce Schumacher, zone paleontologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

“We named this one Rhinconichthys Purgatoirensis,” Maltese said.

That means “whale-shark-like fish from the Purgatory River.”

“We prepared the specimen, spending about 150 hours actual working time on this one fish head. Almost four weeks worth of work straight,” Maltese said.

It’s considered to be the most preserved fossil of the three that have ever been found. The other two were found in England and Japan.

You can see the fossil on display at the Dinosaur Research Center in Woodland Park.

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