Palaeontology of SW Germany 2.1: what rocks are there to find stuff in?

As I explained last time, there are really only Triassic and Jurassic rocks available for fossil hunting around Stuttgart. There is a tiny smattering of Permian Zechstein to be found in a few places, and there are a few Late Quaternary deposits of travertine with elephants and stuff caused by the mineral springs in the Stuttgart suburb Bad Cannstatt (occasionally sold as “marble-like” Cannstatt or Bad Cannstatt ["Bad" means "spa"]), but 95% of all accessible stuff is Mesozoic.

Elephas antiquus from Bad Cannstatt, on display at the SMNS.

Bottom to top, we have available the Buntsandstein, the Muschelkalk, the Keuper with all its jummy parts, together forming the Trias of Friedrich August von Alberti.

The Buntsandstein is a sediment series up to several hundred meters thick, mainly sandstones (konglomerates at the basis rims) and mudstones with some evaporites (especially in the upper Buntsandstein). The deposition is typical red bed, and sadly contains very few fossils. Chirothere tracks, a bunch of labyrinthodonts, some spineless stuff and a handful of plants – that’s it, overall!

OK, here I go exaggerating again: quite a bunch of beautiful fossils have been found, and the SMNS is sitting on (and slowly preparing) finds from a quite sensational locality, but compared to some other sediments in the area the Buntsandstein is nearly barren. At least the sandstones can be quite pretty, see examples on this site, and are used as a building material quite extensively.

The Muschelkalk is much better territory for paleontologists. Being a shallow-marine series of limestones, marls and some evaporites, it preserves a rich invertebrate fauna. You can find tons of nice photos on the web (one link per word!), here’s one of mine, taken at the Palaeontological Collection and Exhibition of the Department of Geosciences of Tübingen University (my oh my, did they convolute their names to avoid the word “museum”. It’ll take a decade until I get used to the new name, and by then they’ll have gone and changed it again).

Ceratites nodosus pavement. Note that all the shells were transported
after fossilization, so this is a reworked deposit. You can see that all fossils
have been eroded flat on one side before being jumbled again.

And then there are the vertebrates! Nothosaurs and pachypleurosaurs, sharks, placodonts, mastodonsaurs (although they really are seen only in the bone bed at the top of the Muschelkalk, which is already part of the Keuper. However, the localities with good Muschelkalk exposure [quarries] often have that bone bed as well).

Placodus gigas in the SMNS

Life in the Muschelkalk Sea, diorama in the SMNS

Finally, to crown it all, the Muschelkalk makes for pretty scenery, and is a good base for vineyards, too. Yummy!

Next time, the Keuper, and thus finally archosaurs!

About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
This entry was posted in lower vertebrates, SMNS, spineless stuff (invertebrates). Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Palaeontology of SW Germany 2.1: what rocks are there to find stuff in?

  1. Pingback: Palaeontology of SW Germany 2.2: Keuper | dinosaurpalaeo

  2. Pingback: Artikelempfehlung | Urzeit-Blog

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