For sale: earliest known squid fossil

Feb 26, 2004

I joined the list looking for any researchers who may be interested in a VERY rare squid specimen I have. I am a commercial fossil dealer, and I would very much like to see this specimen go to an institution. The info is below. If you can think of anyone who would be interested, please let me know. As well, I have a very good selection of other cephalopod materila- both very rare and quite common, so if there is anything you are looking for, please let me know.



Gramadella piveteaui
Name: La Voulte-sur-Rhône
Location: Ardèche, France
Age: Lower Callovian, Jurassic

There were only ever 4 of these animals outside of French institutions. Three were auctioned last year and went to a US museum....not sure which one. I have the 4th one, and it is currently (as far as I am aware) the ONLY specimen outside an academic institution.

It's really quite's pyritised, and is wonderfully detailed. You can see the eyes, the tentacles...all of it. There is even a brittlestar on the plate. The specimen measures about 2" long and is completely inflated. Price is $6000 USD

I am in the process of having professional pics done of it at school within the next few days. The illustration I have won't print on this me if you would like to view it.


Here's some info on the site:

The fossils found at La Voulte-sur-Rhône are a Konservat-Lagerstatte, a deposit where the organisms show an unusual quality of preservation. In this case the soft parts are incredibly well preserved, sometimes down to cellular detail.

The La Voulte-sur-Rhône Lagerstatte is found in several small quarries. These are all along the east west trending Ravin des Mines at La Boissine, to the west of the town of La Voulte-sur-Rhône in Ardèche in Southern France.

Geological Setting
The rocks at La Voulte-sur-Rhône are fine-grained, sedimentary rocks called silty shales, which contain pyrite (iron sulphide, FeS2). In some areas they are red due to the oxidation of iron minerals. Some horizons contain concretions (a calcareous or siliceous mass formed around an object), and others show simple horizontal burrows. The rocks of La Voulte-sur-Rhône have an unusually high metallic mineral content.

Depositional Setting
The sediment was probably deposited in a low energy, shallow marine basin. The water column was episodically stratified (no mixing of water at different depths).

Evidence for low or no oxygen in the water

The small number of local, bottom-dwelling organisms found at most levels.
Horizons where everything died at the same time (mortality horizons) probably due to lack of oxygen.
A turbidity flow (an underwater sediment flow driven by gravity) introduced organisms from a neighbouring oxygenated area (allocthonous fauna).

The lack of plant matter indicates that deposition occurred far from land.


The Lagerstatte at La Voulte-sur-Rhône is Lower Callovian in age. This stage occurs at the end of the mid Jurassic, approximately 160 million years ago.


The fauna is divided into two very distinct faunas, allochthonous and in situ.

The allochthonous fauna mainly consists of soft-bodied organisms which lived on the sea floor (benthic) or swam freely just above it (nektobenthic). It includes

Coleoid cephalopods including the world's oldest octopus and squid.
Pycnogonids (sea spiders)
Decapod, mysid and thylacocephalan crustaceans.
Echinoderms such as crinoids (sea lilies), ophiuroids (brittle stars) e.g. Ophiopinna elegans, and other rare echinoderms
Marine crocodile Metriorhynchus
This wide range of organisms found in close proximity on the surface of a bedding plane suggest that they were introduced by transport and were only together after death. None of the organisms was scavenged and none survived transport.
The in situ mortality horizon consists of abundant pavements of a bivalve, Bositra buchi. It is likely to have been pelagic (lived in the open ocean) and the pavement was produced as they fell to bottom of the sea when they died. This was probably a result of anoxia (a severe reduction in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water). The valves of their shells are still articulated (joined together) and spread open like wings.

Trace fossils of in situ horizontal burrows are another indication of the presence of a local infauna (organisms which lived in the sediment).


The fossils at La Voulte-sur-Rhône show special preservation where the soft tissues have been preserved. They are found in two places, in concretions and in the shales surrounding them.

Organisms are preserved three dimensionally and the soft tissues were replaced by a suite of minerals: - apatite, calcite, gypsum, pyrite, chalcopyrite, galena.

These form a diagenetic sequence where the minerals replace and/ or coat the previous ones. As diagenesis progressed, more and more anatomical detail was lost.

Diagenetic sequence

Surrounding Shales
The organisms are flattened and their soft tissues are replaced mainly by apatite and pyrite with the intervening areas filled with calcite.

Thin layers of sediment found between the arms of cephalopods indicate that the allochthonous fauna was introduced by turbidity currents from an oxygenated area.

The in situ bivalve (Bositra buchi) is still articulated. If they had been transported any distance the articulation would be broken. An anaerobic event killed them all off at the same time.

Diagenetic minerals
Apatite is the commonest mineral and is responsible for preservation of the greatest detail (individuals cells are still visible). It is only found on soft tissues that decay easily, such as muscle tissue. There is a decreasing gradient of phosphatization (apatite formation) from the outside of the muscle to the inside.

Calcite replaces phosphatized muscle, obliterating the fine details of the muscle fibres and retaining only the gross morphology. Calcite also fills fractures in phosphatised muscle fibres.

Gypsum sometimes replaces phosphatised muscle tissues instead of calcite. Replacement occurs in irregular patches unlike the smooth coats formed by pyrite.

Pyritization occurs after phosphatisation, either at the same time or after the earliest stages of calcite precipitation. If there is too much pyritisation, detail is obscured. If there is too little pyritisation, the specimen disintegrates. Pyrite coats gut, gills, carapace and the phosphatised thick muscle fibres in crustaceans. Pyrite is the most important mineral for soft part preservation in squid and plants, and it replaces the valves of Bositra buchi.

Chalcopyrite is a minor phase associated with pyrite.

Galena replaces earlier mineralised tissues (especially if phosphatised) and preferentially develops on pyrite. It is only found in specific zones around fossils, and only preserves the gross morphology.


Fischer, J. ­C., and Riou, B., 1982, Les Teuthoides (Cephalopoda, Dibranchiata) du Callovian Inférieur de La Voulte-sur-Rhône (Ardèche, France): Annales de Paléontologie (Vertebrés-Invertebrés)

Wilby, P. R., 2001, La Voulte-sur-Rhône: p. 349-351, In Palaeobiology II, eds Briggs, D. E. G., and Crowther, P. R., Blackwell Science.

Wilby, P. R., Briggs, D. E. G., and Riou, B., 1996, Mineralization of soft-bodied invertebrates in a Jurassic metalliferous deposit: Geology, v. 24, p. 847-850.
Hi Michael,

In order to upload a picture to your post you might want to try converting the images to jpg or gif format. The site will not accept bmp format images as they are much larger.

Thanks, I'd like to have a look at these specimens as I'm sure we all would!

I've just found a line drawing of this particular cephalopod. It is interesting how much it seems to resemble Spirula, and seems to be on the correct branch of the tree that led to the Spirulida. Whether or not that is just a coincidence is for the experts to determine!

squid fossil


that is the illustration I was going to post.

As I said, the specimen is probably the single rarest item I have ever owned. Given the diverse amount of fossil material I have collected and sold over the past few years, that is really saying something. The site that produced this material is now closed, and has been for the better part of two decades. It was collected by an amateur paleontologist back in the 1970's and early 80's. he had a private little museum set up at the time, and the VERY few of these specimens he had were given to the government (the Paris Museum I believe). There were only 4 that were not in government collections- three of which were auctioned a while back and bought by a US museum. The last one was owned by a Parisian friend of mine who recently traded it to me. When I have the photos of the specimen next week I will be more than happy to send pics off to any interested individuals. Please don't confuse this with a belemnite.....I'm sure you people know enough about cephalopods to know the difference. This specimen is so unique because of the fact that it is all soft tissue. But more than that, it is not just a carbon is inflated! I would VERY much like to find an academic client for this piece. At some point I will need to sell it, and I tru;y hope it is not to a private collector. I do not have any contacts in marine biology with any of the larger museums, so if anyone on the list does, and they think they may have an interested party, please let me know. I am a little flexible on the pric if it is to an institution.


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