Translation of the “Zeit” article by Urs Willmann “Was wurde aus – dem deutschen Raubsaurier?” from 18.12.2011. Original German terms given in parentheses and italics.
What became of – the German predatory dinosaur
The nearly complete dino from Kehlheim is the fossil of the year. BY URS WILLMANN
If a discourse hit on native critters of times long past like Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, usually, only one name came up: Archäopteryx. The feathered composite creature (Mischwesen) is the star of the German fossil scene, only weeks ago its fans celebrated the discovery of the eleventh specimen. But at the beginning of October another critter made headline, a 72 centimeter long theropod, still adolescent. Its skeleton reminds us that, by all means, there was diversity of species in times past (Urzeit).
The little predatory dinosaur returned to daylight fossilized, after 135 million years, and has roughed up the scene of bone hunters and researchers. It was presented at a mineral show in Munich, has not been scientifically analyzed yet. But experts recognize that the find from a quarry near Kehlheim is something special. Not only are 98 percent of its bones preserved, the juvenile was conserved with a little skin and hair (Haut und Haar). This stroke of luck makes it the best preserved dinosaur of Germany.
In the Mesozoic in this country humid-warm tropical climate prevailed for a long time. Most of the country was covered by water, natural dams connected the islands between the wetlands. Bizarre creatures romped through this water world. One of them was the “Swabian Lindworm” with a giraffe neck – it has entered the technical language as Plateosaurus engelhardti. Spectacular also Compsognathus: The 80 centimeter small mite at 64 mph sprinted faster than today’s ostrich.
Where today the Lower Saxonian dullsville of Obernkichen can be found sickle-clawed dinosaurs once massacred their prey. Carnivorous competitors were Allosaurus, Liliensternus and Megalosaurus. Vegetarians also left their marks/tracks, Apatosaurus, Europasaurus and iguanodontids – the cows of the Mesozoic. The latter perambulated Germany 120 million years ago in herds and fed themselves up to four tonnes live weight.
The juvenile theropods resurrects this brave colorful saurian world. Its finder indeed had it presented at a fossil dealer show, but previously registered it as “German national treasure”. Thus the predator from the Cretaceous can’t be brought abroad via dubious channels as an expensive fossil migration object. Admittedly, this costs “the man serious cash”, says Oliver Rauhut of the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie. But the finder makes sure that his treasure remains available to the public and science – and that the primeval times are no longer perceived as a heyday of fluttering fowls only.