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Academic & Professional Books  Palaeontology  Palaeozoology & Extinctions

Messel: An Ancient Greenhouse Ecosystem

Series: Senckenberg-Bücher Volume: 80
By: Krister T Smith(Editor), Stephan FK Schaal(Editor), Jörg Habersetzer(Editor), Volker Bouffier(Foreword By), Volker Mosbrugger(Foreword By), Gabriele Gruber(Foreword By)
355 pages, 393 colour photos and colour illustrations, 2 tables
Messel: An Ancient Greenhouse Ecosystem
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About this book

Language: English

Messel: An Ancient Greenhouse Ecosystem is an exquisitely illustrated book by 28 internationally renowned specialists who present a synopsis of the current state of understanding of the climate and structure of the Eocene Messel ecosystem. The information is derived from studying the rocks, animal and plant fossils of the Messel pit. The Messel Pit represents an ancient maar lake situated in the archipelago that Europe was in the Eocene, close to present-day Frankfurt, Germany.

The exceptional state of preservation of Messel fossils has enabled researchers, in many cases for the first time, to identify minute functional details of the plants and animals of the Messel ecosystem about 48 Million years ago: plants, insects, birds, mammals (horses!), reptiles, amphibians and fishes.

Introductory chapters treat Messel, its formation as a maar lake, the conditions of burial and preservation of the fossils, and history of work since discovery of the first fossil there in 1876. The Messel flora and individual fossils groups are discussed in detail in seven following chapters, discussing both paleontological and evolutionary details obtained from the Messel fossils and by comparison with other fossil locations. A final chapter summarizes all previous research and presents a synopsis of ecosystem conditions (climatic, environmental, biota, producers and consumers, occupation of ecospaces, niches) of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems at Messel, derived from studies of the Messel samples.

This hitherto most comprehensive treatment of the fossil Messel ecosystem will make this book the standard reference work on Messel to scientists, while the lush illustrations of flora and fauna will captivate everyone from fossil enthusiasts to interested laypersons.

Contents

Dedication V
Forewords VII
Preface X

Chapter 1 Messel – Eventful Past, Exciting Future 1

Chapter 2 The Formation of the Messel Maar 7
      The volcano and the maar at Messel 8
      The Middle Messel Formation with oil shale 9
      Sand and ash: the Lower Messel Formation 11
      What did the Messel Maar look like? 12
      The crater’s history 13

Chapter 3 Paleoclimate – Learning from the Past for the Future 17
      Pollen and spores – A means for documenting climate fluctuations 18
      Varves – “Annual rings” in the lake sediment 20
      The oil shale – A unique Eocene climate archive 21

Chapter 4 Joined in Death – the Burial Community of Messel 25
      Distortion in the course of time 26
      The mystery of the bats 28
      Fossil color preservation 30
      Cause of death: Unknown 32

Chapter 5 Messel Research – Methods and Concepts    35
      Excavation, conservation, preparation 35
      Examination by means of X-ray techniques and electron microscopy 37
      Taxonomy and Phylogeny 38
      Species diversity, viewed mathematically 40

Chapter 6 The Fossil Flora of Messel    43
      History of study 43
      The state of preservation of plant remnants 46
      Systematics of the flora 48
      Algae, mosses, ferns 48
      Gymnosperms 50
      Primitive flowering plants or basal angiosperms 51
      Monocotyledonous flowering plants or monocots 52
      Higher flowering plants or eudicotyledons 54
      The vegetation surrounding the maar lake 59

Chapter 7 Jewels in the Oil Shale – Insects and Other Invertebrates    63
      Sponges (Porifera) 64
      Paleobiogeography and paleoenvironment 65
      Mollusks (Mollusca) 65
      Mystery snails (Viviparidae) 66
      Ramshorn snails (Planorbidae) 66
      Arthropods (Arthropoda) 66
      Spiders (Araneae) 67
      Harvestmen (Opiliones) 69
      Crustaceans (Crustacea) 69
      Water fleas (Cladocera) 69
      Seed shrimp (Ostracoda) 69
      Decapods (Decapoda) 69
      Insects (Insecta, Hexapoda) 70
      Abundance of the different insect groups in Messel 71
      Mayflies (Ephemeroptera) 72
      Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) 72
      Stoneflies (Plecoptera) 72
      Earwigs (Dermaptera) 73
      Grasshoppers, crickets and katydids (Orthoptera) 74
      Stick insects (Phasmatodea) 74
      Cockroaches and termites (Blattodea) 75
      Thrips (Thysanoptera) 76
      Cicadas and “hoppers” (Auchenorrhyncha) 76
      Plant lice, scale insects and whiteflies (Sternorrhyncha) 76
      True bugs (Heteroptera) 77
      Hymenopterans (Hymenoptera): Sawflies and parasites 79
      Hymenopterans (Hymenoptera): Bees and wasps 82
      Hymenopterans (Hymenoptera): Ants 84
      Net-winged insects (Neuroptera) 88
      Twisted-wing parasites (Strepsiptera) 89
      Beetles (Coleoptera): Primitive groups 90
      Beetles (Coleoptera): Rove beetles, water dwellers and other handsome beetles 91
      Beetles (Coleoptera): Various plant eaters 95
      Caddisflies (Trichoptera) 97
      Butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) 99
      Flies (Diptera) 100
      Scorpionflies (Mecoptera) 101
      Paleobiogeography of the insects in Messel 101

Chapter 8 Actinopterygians – the Fishes of the Messel Lake    105
      Range of species 105
      Paleobiology 109
      Paleogeography 110

Chapter 9 Amphibians in Messel – in the Water and on Land    113
      Frog fauna 113
      Terrestrial: Eopelobates wagneri 113
      Aquatic: Palaeobatrachus tobieni 114
      Lutetiobatrachus gracilis, an almost blank canvas 117
      Salamanders 117

Chapter 10 Amniotes – Mammals, Birds and Reptiles    121
      Chapter 10.1 Lizards and Snakes – Warmth-loving Sunbathers    123
            The Messel gecko 123
            Ornatocephalus 124
            Lacertiformes: the early success 125
            Iguanidae: Immigrants from the New World 132
            Creepers in the underbrush 134
            Eurheloderma: an early Gila Monster 136
            The semi-aquatic shinisaurs 138
            Necrosaurs: the “death lizards” 139
            Small and large boas 140
            Palaeopython 144
            The squamate community 145
      Chapter 10.2 Turtles – Armored Survivalists    149
            Palaeoemys messeliana 151
            Neochelys franzeni 153
            Allaeochelys crassesculpta 154
            Palaeoamyda messeliana 154
      Chapter 10.3 Crocodyliforms – Large-bodied Carnivores    159
            Diplocynodon darwini 159
            Diplocynodon deponiae 160
            Hassiacosuchus haupti 160
            Asiatosuchus germanicus 164
            Tomistominae – Gharials in Europe 164
            Boverisuchus – the “hoofed” crocodyliform 165
            Bergisuchus – a southern immigrant 166
            The crocodyliform community 167

Chapter 11 Birds – the Most Species-rich Vertebrate Group in Messel    169
      Large ratites and other terrestrial species 170
      The palaeognathous birds in the Messel forest 171
      Gastornithidae 174
      The gallinaceous bird Paraortygoides 174
      Seriemas 174
      Strigogyps 176
      The Messel rail 177
      Bird life at water’s edge 181
      The aerial insect hunters 182
      Nightjars and allies 182
      Swifts and early relatives of the hummingbirds 185
      Scaniacypselus 186
      Parargornis 187
      The arboreal birds of the Messel forest 188
      Mousebird diversity 190
      Parrots and passerines 194
      Surprising relationships 195
      Trogons and Coraciiformes 199
      Trogons 199
      The Messel hoopoes 200
      Rollers 200
      A kingfisher relative 203
      Several mystery birds 204
      Biogeographic connections 206
      Messel birds and tropical avifaunas 209
      What remains to be discovered 211

Chapter 12 Mammalia – Another Success Story    215
      Chapter 12.1 Marsupials – a Surprise in Messel    217
            Anatomy and morphology 217
            Paleoecology 219
            Evolution and biogeography of the marsupials from Messel 221
      Chapter 12.2 Four Archaic Yet Highly Specialized Mammals    223
            The remarkable adaptations of Leptictidium 224
            The piscivore Buxolestes 227
            The tree- climbing Kopidodon macrognathus 229
            The long-fingered Heterohyus nanus 231
            Paleobiogeography 232
      Chapter 12.3 With and Without Spines – the Hedgehog Kindred from Messel    235
            A fish-loving hedgehog 236
            Macrocranion tenerum: the smallest lipotyphlan from Messel 237
            A spiny, strong-headed, and scaly-tailed hedgehog 238
            Paleobiogeography and Paleoenvironment 239
      Chapter 12.4 Primates – Rarities in Messel    241
            The first discoveries 242
            Ida, the little diva of Messel 244
            Further discoveries 246
      Chapter 12.5 Bats – Highly Specialized Nocturnal Hunters with Echolocation    249
            The bats at the Messel Lake 249
            Wing shapes and hunting modes 250
            Stomach contents 251
            What the cochlea reveals 254
            The evolution of echolocation 257
            Summary of Eocene bats worldwide 261
      Chapter 12.6 Rodents – Gnawing Their Way to Success    263
            Systematics 263
            The large leaf-eater Ailuravus 265
            The short-legged climber Masillamys 266
            Hartenbergeromys: a still enigmatic rodent 267
            Eogliravus: The oldest dormouse 267
            Paleobiogeography and paleoenvironment 268
      Chapter 12.7 Ferae – Animals that Eat Animals    271
            Systematics of Carnivoraformes and Pholidotamorpha 271
            Lesmesodon: the Messel hyaenodontan 272
            Paroodectes feisti: an agile climber 274
            Messelogale kessleri: a small predator 276
            Eomanis waldi: the oldest pangolin 277
            Euromanis krebsi: the headless anteater 279
            Eurotamandua joresi: a doubtful South American 281
            Paleogeography 283
      Chapter 12.8 The Advent of Even-toed Hoofed Mammals    285
            Messelobunodon: a primitive even-toed ungulate 285
            Aumelasia: a cousin from France 287
            Eurodexis: the smallest artiodactyl from Messel 288
            Masillabune: a robust browser 289
            Paleobiogeography and Paleoenvironment 290
      Chapter 12.9 Odd-toed Ungulates – Early Horses and Tapiromorphs    293
            The early horses (Equoidea) 293
            The life of the early horses 295
            From leaf browser to grass eater 298
            The tapir-like animals (Tapiromorpha) 299

Chapter 13 The Messel Ecosystem    303
      Topography and lake chemistry 303
      The aquatic ecosystem 305
      The shore and possible tributaries 305
      The terrestrial ecosystem 309
      Reasons for the great species diversity in Messel 309
      The role of niches 311
      Future prospects 313

References    315
List of Authors    339
Index    343
Acknowledgments and Image Credits    349

Customer Reviews

Series: Senckenberg-Bücher Volume: 80
By: Krister T Smith(Editor), Stephan FK Schaal(Editor), Jörg Habersetzer(Editor), Volker Bouffier(Foreword By), Volker Mosbrugger(Foreword By), Gabriele Gruber(Foreword By)
355 pages, 393 colour photos and colour illustrations, 2 tables
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