Paleontology of SW Germany 3.1.2: more Lias

Last post got us through the Lias α. I have nothing to say about the β and γ, as they are rarely exposed and thus I have no fossils to show from my own collection. Similarly the Lias δ is composed of soft mud(stone), and thus rarely exposed. But I have some fossils from it, because a cement firm running a quarry in the Lias ε had dug a hole down into the δ for visiting geologist (for announced visits they would pump the water out, too), and dumped the excavated material next to it. This pile eroded away slowly, and I once had the chance to search it for fossils. Because natural erosion is the preparator with the softest touch the invertebrates in that pile were beautiful – but I only found the typical belemnites.
Still, the belemnites are plentiful, and some of they are really nice. The best I found was lying on top of a bread-sized nodule of slightly more carbonate rich sediment. It was broken into several parts, and the tip of the belemnite rostrum was firmly embedded in one part. I collected that part, plus all the shards of the rostrum I could find. I glued it back together and here’s what resulted:


Looks a lot like a Pershing missile that didn’t blow up but got stuck in the ground 😉

What’s really cool: check out the wrecked upper end: that belminite was eaten, with the predator biting off the soft, chewy parts and leaving the tough rostrum to fall away.

OK, enough from that layer, let’s move one up into the really really good stuff: the Lias ε!

What’s so special about the Lias ε? Well, you’ll probably recognize it better by its other name: the Posidonia Shale. The stuff all those wonderful ammonites with soft tissue preservation, those exquisite ichtyosaurs with skin outlines and what not come from!

Holzmaden is a town that’s known worldwide for the Posidonia or Holzmaden shale. That’s because it has been a center of quarrying for a long time, but also because the most famous person connected to the shale lived and worked there: Bernhard Hauff. Hauff was the son of a quarry owner and chemist who intended to distil oil from the shale. That works, but was only ever commercially viable during war times. Bernhard Hauff learned preparation of fossils by trial and error, without any formal training – and he excelled! In 1883 he managed to prep out an ichtyosaur preserving the outline of the soft tissues, which was a sensational find. He founded the Urwelt-Museum Hauff, and this and follow-up posts will center of that museum – and the competitor across the road.

Let’s start with a view from the parking lot:

Yep, from the parking lot of the urweltmuseum + steinbruch fischer (primeval times museum and quarry fischer) you can see, right across the road, the Urweltmuseum Hauff, including their sauropod models outdoors!

The entrance to the museum fischer leads by a tripodal Plateosaurus model – read all there is to say about this and other models from the same series, which originally was on exhibit at the SMNS, in my paper. Still, it’s cool 🙂


The next thing you see is the quarry next to which the museum stands. It is open for visitors for a small fee, and kids love it. me, I want to be able to work with bigger tools than a chisel and hammer, I want to use pickaxes and crowbars, so that I can lift out slabs of significant size. Two or three square meters, that’s when you have a chance that the break is not where it always is for smaller chunks: through the fossil. The same is also true of the Solnhofen limestone: you want to get out huge chunks in one piece, then split them down layer by layer.


The Fischer museum is the far less sophisticated of the two museums in Holzmaden, and much less money was spent building it. That doesn’t make it any less interesting, though, and one thing Eric Snively and I liked very much is that many fossils are hung on the walls without protective glass, and well lit. it makes photographing them that much easier! Another interesting difference is that at Fischer you start with the fossils for sale, whereas museum shops normally come last. This goes to show that the Fischer quarry is still primarily a business. The Holzmaden shale is quarried for, e.g. pool and snooker tables, and Fischer is still in that line of work.

Let’s start the fossil parade with some amazing stuff that would grace my house right now if I only had the money:


a crinoid, roughly 80 cm long.Fischer_06

small crinoid colony with the log they dangled from and the small shells that also grew on it. These are very typical Holzmaden shale fossils.

OK, on for the museum specimens:


A crinoid colony on a larger log. Note that this log has very few crinoids but quite a lot of shells on it. A detail view below:


In addition to the long stemmed crinoids, typically the species Seirocrinus subangularis, there are also short-stemmed ones (Pentacrinites): this slab has over 150 of them!



Next post on Holzmaden will finally have vertebrates 🙂

About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy
This entry was posted in spineless stuff (invertebrates), Travels. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Paleontology of SW Germany 3.1.2: more Lias

  1. Pingback: Paleontology of SW Germany 3.1.3: even more Lias | dinosaurpalaeo

  2. Pingback: Palaeontology of SW Germany 3.1.9: heaps from Hauff | dinosaurpalaeo

  3. Pingback: Palaeontology of SW Germany 3.1.14: spineless @ Hauff | dinosaurpalaeo

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