The Sauriermuseum Frick in Frick, Switzerland, exists because of the Tongrube Keller in Frick is one of the three localities in Europe yielding large numbers of skeletons of Plateosaurus. I’ll show you some of the finds at the end of this post. But although Plateosaurus was an obligate saurischian biped, it’s most certainly not a theropod, and thus not suitable for Theropod Thursday. However, finding a theropod in the Saurier-layers of Frick is extremely unlikely, as it seems to be almost the same depositional environment as in the other two huge Plateosaurus localities – which aside from plateosaurs yielded only a few small teeth and a handful of turtles. Imagine my surprise when I came to Frick a few years back during the field trip of the Stegosaur Meeting organized by the Sauriermuseum Aathal and found myself face to – erh, can’t really say face to face, the little thing was headless! So I found myself face to bones with a small theropod.
Bonus points if you recognize the gentleman in the background.
The reverse side of the block is also interesting, and in the third picture there are more (useless) bonus points to be earned:
I’m sorry for the less-than-ideal photo quality. There was a lot of getting-into-each-other’s-way and firing-flashes-at-the-glass-cabinet going on around the little fossil.
So is this a sensational (and sensationally derived) theropod from the Upper Triassic? Sadly, the answer is no! Check out the profile of the clay pit from which the material comes on the Sauriermuseum Frick homepage (German only, sorry, their English website is rather rudimentary).
stolen from Sauriermuseum Frick homepage; link as in text above.
The Plateosaurus skeletons come from where there is a skeleton sketched into the profile, but the little theropod is from just above the Arietenkalk, AFAIK, thus from the lower Jurassic. That’s still an interesting and quite sensational find, even headless, but not quite the whopper it would have been from further down.
Here’s a picture I took during the same field trip from the top of the pit. The Plateosaurus layer is exposed at the bottom right, where you can just about make out an ongoing excavation above the red marls. The theropod comes from very near to where the young lady is sitting (again, bonus points if you recognize her or the colleague on the left).
So, there it is: a small, gracile theropod known from a partial articulated skeleton from a marine sediment, from the Lower Jurassic of Switzerland. Neat!
But wait, it gets better still! A short time ago I met Ben Pabst, the splendid brain and muscle behind the ongoing Frick excavations, as well as the preparator of much of the material. And Ben had news…….
Check out the articulation of the theropod. It’s partial, but not because the bones were ripped apart or drifted away one by one, but because (*cry*) a machine in the quarry ripped parts away. The ribs are articulated, as are the digits, with all phalanges neatly in place! When Ben saw this he had hopes that more parts of the skeleton could be found, likely parts of the tail, based on the position of the find in the field. However, the find was practically under a road in the quarry, and because the Tonwerke Keller do not wish to loose money they are understandably not very willing to do some major re-building of roads in their quarries at inopportune times just to facilitate a palaeontological wild goose chase. So Ben bid his time, knowing that one day that part of the quarry would be worked on again, and the dirt road torn away. And a short while ago, he indeed could recover more of the skeleton.
And recover more of the skeleton he did: the complete skull! Yay! Now we just have to wait until Swiss scientists have completed their ongoing work and publish a description. I won’t say anything about the skull or the affinities of the critter, except that it is a very well preserved skull.
To round off the post here’s another photo from the quarry and some Plateosaurus pics.
This is not my fault!
oh, lots of bonus points to be had here! If you can tear your eyes away from Plateosaurus engelhardti MSF 23, that is!
There, more Plateosaurus pics than theropod pics in this post – I feel better already!