Anna, The Rare Sea Reptile with the very Big Eyes Goes on Display at Monaco's Acclaimed Oceanographic Museum & Aquarium
Christened “Anna” by her new owner, this extremely rare specimen was acquired by a private collector at a Christie’s auction in Paris in April 2008 and was recently loaned to the Oceanographic Museum for public display. Weighing about one ton, and measuring 16.5 feet (5.40 meters) Anna is thought to have originated from the Sea of Kansas, USA which existed during the Jurassic period. A cousin to the grand Jurassic dinosaurs, Anna was particularly adapted to life in the water. The rarity of this specimen is due to its exceptional state of conservation.
The cranial region is 90 per cent intact; the remaining skeleton is approx. 70 – 80 percent complete. As the fossil was located in relatively soft rock, the paleontologists were able to excavate the fossil bones and remove its skeleton with minimal breakage. Anna’s affiliation to the species of the Ophthalmosaurus is due to the exceptional dimension of her eyes - 9 inches in diameter (or 23 cms). Proportionally to the size of her body, Anna’s eyes are considered the biggest in the animal kingdom when compared with present day fauna - and in prehistoric times only the eyes of the whale came close at approx. 6 inches in diameter (or 15 cms). Anna’s other anatomical curiosities, the sclerotic ring and the bone plate ring, surround each orbit in order to preserve the soft tissues from water pressure. This viviparous species Ophthalmosaurus are not the ancestors of today’s dolphins; however they do show numerous morphologic similarities including their fins, a tapered face, deep diving ability and sharp teeth to capture prey. The vertical tail fin, enlarged as with those of sharks, and an ability to move with agility in water make this species an intimidating predator. It is likely that creatures within the order of Ichthyosaurus, as Anna is, moved in water with the help of the tail fin and navigated using its two side fins. Able to leap out of water and swim at a speed of more than 25 mph (40 km), in ways similar to those of dolphins, they used their four limbs for direction and stabilization.