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The Messel Pit’s remarkable fossils

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A time capsule of life around 48 million years ago, the Messel Pit is a treasure trove of well-preserved Eocene-era fossils, including fish, turtles, coprolites (fossilized poop), a diverse range of mammal skeletons that include fur and skin imprints, and beetles with their structural colors still embedded in the rock.

This clip from David Attenborough’s Rise of Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates introduces this remarkable excavation site and some of the fossils that have been found there, including snakes, ancient birds, rodents, an early horse, bats, and more.

snake fossil
small horse fossil
bat fossil
How did so many animals become preserved at this location in Germany? Some background from Smithsonian Magazine:

The lake was so deep that oxygen didn’t circulate near the bottom, which meant that there were no bottom feeders around to consume the dead and dying animals. Year after year, algae scumming the lake surface bloomed and died, and so layers of fine clay and dead micro-organisms drifted to the bottom. Each layer was as thick as a strand of hair. It took 250 years to build up an inch of mud. Over millions and millions of years, plants and animals were preserved like flowers pressed between the pages of a book, and the algae and other organic matter turned into oil shale.

CC by SA - Kopidodon macrognatus
CC by SA - Fossil jewel beetle, still showing the (structural) color of the exoskeleton
Read more at Smithsonian Magazine, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, and from Google Arts and Culture: UNESCO World Heritage Messel Pit Fossil Site.

Then watch these: Excavating 101 at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, In Search of Fossil Fish, Google Glass in the Gobi, and why are there oyster shells in the ‘Chalk Pyramids’ of Kansas?

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