Paleontologists recover rare “Fish-lizard” fossil in Utah

Oct 6, 2021, 4:38 PM | Updated: 4:39 pm

utah paleontologists recover ichthyosaur fossil...

Alan Dailey of Hooper, Utah, poses next to the fossilized Ichthyosaur he spotted and helped recover at Flaming Gorge. Photo: Utah Department of Natural Resources

VERNAL, Utah — A Utah boater helped paleontologists recover one of the best-known specimens of a rare fossil earlier this year. 

Alan Dailey, from Hooper, Utah was boating in the Flaming George Reservoir in Northeastern Utah in May when he found something incredible… and incredibly old.

Dailey encountered a fossil in a 400 pound sandstone block. He contacted state paleontologists about his find, sent photos, and left the specimens behind for experts to recover.

The Hooper man, along with a team of paleontologists from Utah State Parks and other partner organizations, returned to the site. There, he showed them where he first met the fossilized remains of an over 200 million-year-old marine reptile.

utah fossil of ichthyosaur found

Illustration provided by the Utah Department of Natural Resources

Ichthyosaur fossil is rare Utah find

The team excavated the fossil, which consisted of a “fore fin, vertebrae and ribs, from an animal known as an ichthyosaur  (ick-thee-oh-sore, meaning “fish-lizard”),” the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation reported.

Ichthyosaurs were “dolphin-to-whale-sized and swam in the seas of the Mesozoic era from the times of the first dinosaurs” to just before their extinction. The Ichthyosaur found was dolphin-sized with a similar shape, snout, and conical teeth. 

Previous finds of ichthyosaur fossils have been on a much smaller scale, consisting mostly of isolated vertebrae. In a news release, the parks said “Alan Dailey’s find, now at the Utah Field House of Natural History, includes the nearly complete and articulated forefin, plus 10 ribs and 19 articulated vertebrae.”

Dailey’s random encounter and prompt report to paleontologists with the state have now resulted in the recovery of one of the best ichthyosaur fossil specimens known from Utah. 

Read more: 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Volunteers gather at Pedal and Pick at Jordan Park in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 20, 2024. P...

Mariah Maynes

How did April 22 become Earth Day?

20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day in 1970. Nowadays, the event is a global affair.

30 minutes ago

Richfield City police say the male driver of a utility task vehicle died of injuries he sustained a...

Simone Seikaly

Crash kills utility task vehicle driver in Richfield

Richfield City police said a crash between a utility task vehicle and a car ejected the UTV driver, who died of his injuries.

47 minutes ago

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break on the first day of his t...

Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Trump is furious at her artwork

Christine Cornell is a courtroom sketch artist for the Trump trial.

1 hour ago

Two electronic scooters sit parked on Main Street and 200 South in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May...

Aimee Cobabe and Heather Peterson

Second e-scooter death being investigated in Salt Lake City

A 41-year-old man died after police said he was hit while riding an e-scooter at 800 West North Temple on Sunday.

2 hours ago

zach wilson...

Sam Herrera

LISTEN: Zach Wilson reportedly traded to Denver Broncos

KSL Sports producer Kyle Ireland joins Jeff Caplan's Afternoon News at 4:15 p.m. to discuss Zach Wilson's reported trade.

3 hours ago

Image shows a person receiving a measles vaccine, Based on national behavior, measles cases are lik...

Allessandra Harris Gurr

Measles cases likely to pop up in Utah this year, health official says

Measles cases haven't made it to Utah yet but health professionals advise getting vaccinated and watching for symptoms.

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

Paleontologists recover rare “Fish-lizard” fossil in Utah