From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Temporal range: Late Triassic, 228 Ma
Icarosaurus copy.jpg
Life restoration of Icarosaurus
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Family: Kuehneosauridae
Genus: Icarosaurus
Colbert, 1966
Type species
Icarosaurus siefkeri
Colbert, 1966

Icarosaurus (meaning "Icarus lizard") is an extinct genus of kuehneosaurid reptile from the Late Triassic (Carnian age) Lower Lockatong Formation of New Jersey, dated to around 228 million years ago.[1] It is closely related to lizards and the tuatara. Based on a partial skeleton missing part of the tail, some ribs, a hand, and parts of the legs, it was a small animal, about 10 centimeters (4 in) long from the skull to the hips. Like its relative Kuehneosaurus, it was able to glide short distances using 'wings' consisting of highly elongated ribs covered with skin, with the upper surface convex and the lower surface concave, thus creating a simple airfoil structure well-suited to gliding.[2][3] This method of gliding is also seen in Coelurosauravus and the modern Draco, neither of which are closely related to Icarosaurus.

Discovery and history[edit]

The only known fossil skeleton which definitely belongs to Icarosaurus was found in 1960 in North Bergen, New Jersey by Alfred Siefker, a teenager at the time, who stumbled upon the specimen while exploring a quarry. Siefker brought the specimen to scientists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York for identification and preparation.[2][4] It was described by paleontologist Edwin Harris Colbert in 1966, who named it Icarosaurus siefkeri in honor of Siefker.[3]

The fossil remained in the collections of the AMNH until the late 1980s. In 1989, Siefker reclaimed the specimen, which he kept in a private collection during the following decade. In 2000, Siefker sold the fossil at auction in San Francisco through the auction house Butterfield & Butterfield, despite concerns from paleontologists that the sale could render the specimen unavailable for scientific study.[4] The fossil sold for US$167,000, only half of its appraised value, to Dick Spight of California. That same year, Spight donated the Icarosaurus holotype back to the AMNH, where it was put on display 7 October 2000.[4]


  1. ^ Berg, T.M., et al. (1983). Stratigraphic Correlation Chart of Pennsylvania: G75, Pennsylvania Geologic Survey, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
  2. ^ a b Ley, Willy (December 1961). "Dragons and Hot-Air Balloons". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 79–89.
  3. ^ a b Colbert, Edwin H. (1966). "A gliding reptile from the Triassic of New Jersey" (pdf). American Museum Novitates. 2246 (3282): 1–23. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
  4. ^ a b c Wong, K. (2000). "Icarosaurus Home to Roost." Scientific American, 27 September 2000. Accessed online 17 December 2010, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=icarosaurus-home-to-roost