Topeka A noted fossil hunter is looking for someone to buy and display the remains of a 17-foot-long prehistoric fish that he unearthed — likely 88 million years after it died — in western Kansas.
Alan Detrich found the Xiphactinus protruding from a hillside between Scott City and Oakley in 2007. He calls it the Kansas King Fish and has spent the past two years assembling the fossil, which includes the fossil of a large fish it had recently eaten.
Researchers refer to the Xiphactinus as a sea monster because of its size and how it would use its wide jaws to swallow six-foot-long fish whole.
“It was a bully,” Detrich said, referring to the fierceness of the Xiphactinus. “It killed anything that moved when it was hungry.”
He says the fossil also included soft tissue, which he plans to send to a Kansas University graduate student for additional study. The tissue will help researchers learn details including the age of the fish and the composition of the Cretaceous sea the fish lived in.
Detrich has been associated with KU as a fossil hunter since 1986, and is noted for unearthing a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in South Dakota in 1991.
Detrich said the Xiphactinus is probably the largest Cretaceous Period fish specimen ever assembled. The Xiphactinus has only been found in Kansas and New York, he said.
Detrich said he hopes to sell his Xiphactinus fossil to a museum for display, preferably in Kansas. He said he wants the fossil available to the public, especially children. “I’d like to see it go some place it has an effect on young minds,” he said.
Another Xiphactinus is already on display in the state at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays. That fossil was discovered by George F. Sternberg in 1952. The famous display is called, “Fish-Within-A-Fish” because of the well-preserved fish inside of its stomach.
Detrich’s fossil is three feet longer than the fossil in Hays and the fish inside its stomach has fossilized scales, a rarity, Detrich said.
For the past 10 years, Detrich has been trying to make the Xiphactinus Kansas’ state fossil but to no avail.