Palaeontology of SW Germany 3.1.11: Hauff ichthyosaurs

Last post on the Urweltmuseum Hauff had two ichthyosaurs already, a Stenopterygius quadrissicus and a Eurhinosaurus longirostris. Both spectacular in their near-perfect articulation and completeness, but both nothing special when Holzmaden is concerned. Here’s one that is a bit more special.

Stenopterygius crassicostatus with five large embryos. Unusual is the bulging torso section, preserved in a concretion. Most ichthyosaurs in the Posidonia Shale are completely flattened. but now let me show you one of those specimens that have made Holzmaden so famous, and that are the reason Bernhard Hauff is so important for palaeontology:


Another Stenopterygius quadrissicus, and this one has a full skin envelop: a soft-tissue are surrounding the skeleton that corresponds more or less to the external shape of the living animal! in 1892, Bernhard Hauff sen., the self-taught preparator, managed to extricate a complete Stenopterygius quadrissicus (a tiny one at 1,2 m length) from the rock with an all-around soft-tissue outline. And that immediately turned the undulating, curving snake-like ichthyosaurs into the dolphin/shark hybrid we know today. Just compare this (via BibliOdysee) and this (wikipedia image)!

And now the remaining three ichthyosaurs currently on show:


another Stenopterygius crassicostatus


Stenopterygius megacephalus – no idea if these two species are still valid.


and finally, Temnodontosaurus trigonodon, huge animals with enormous eyes.

So, that’s all….no, waitaminute! There is a part of the museum that I haven’t mentioned before, in which they recreated Bernhard Hauff’s lab. It is not accessible, but you can see in through a glass wall. The stuff haphazardly stacked against the wall there is amazing, and I will show it later. For this post, though, there is this:


I am not sure if the big skull is a cast of one from some other lagerstätte, or if it is from the Posidonia Shale. I suspect the latter: that the skull comes from one of the many concretions found in some of the layers (those called “Stein” of some sort, typically). If so, it must have been a hell of a bother to prepare, as the concretions are literally rock hard – much harder than the marls and mudstones of which the Posidonia Shale normally consists, and that you can scrape away. I have seen such skulls elsewhere, and will one day post them.


About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
This entry was posted in Hauff, Holzmaden, ichthyosaur, lower vertebrates, Travels. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Palaeontology of SW Germany 3.1.11: Hauff ichthyosaurs

  1. Pingback: ICHTYOSAURIERS « Tsjok's blog

  2. Mark Robinson says:

    Lovely specimens (and photos). I take it that the body outline of the Temnodontosaurus was scraped out by a preparator rather than being an actual preservation trace of soft tissues.

  3. dobermunk says:

    makes me miss BW – no mean feat. There were monthly lectures at the SMNS from people like Maisch. Totally interessting. Not really much in that way here in Berlin. Or am I missing something? (Found nothing at the site).

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