Deutschland- Saurierland
Sauropodenfunde in Niedersachsen

In breach of copyright, etc. etc. etc

Germany - Saurian Country
Sauropod discoveries in Lower Saxony

In the late autumn of 1998 the amateur palaeontologist Holger Lüdke made the
find of his life, although at the time he couldn't have know what was going
to happen next. With the ordinary fish teeth, brachiopods or sea urchins he
found a tooth about 2cm long with root intact, and fragments of bone such as
a 2x2cm bone of unusual appearance. These fossils did not allow him any
rest. In order to identify them he obtained specialist literature by
inter-library loan. After comparing it with  many descriptions, he was
certain that he had found teeth and toe bones of a Sauropod. These
plant-eating dinosaurs, whose most well known representatives such as
Brachiosaurus, Apatosaurus and Diplodocus  reached lengths of 30 meters.
Until now, no finds of these animals had been found in about 170 years of
research in the rocks of the Upper Jurassic of Germany. Then came another
problem: the bones and teeth were not, as expected, of enormous size, but on
the contrary much too small! No wonder that the diagnosis "remains of a
juvenile sauropod" was greeted on first approach to the experts with great
scepticism. Apart from scanty specimens from the Lias, described by Robert
Wild in 1978, no sauropod bone had ever been found in Germany, and the
remains of juveniles are rare worldwide. And now they were presented with
remains of juveniles of plant-eating sauriscian dinosaurs. How much more
likely was it that they were dealing with unusual fish teeth, or the small
teeth of the marine crocodile Machimosaurus, commonly found in these
exposures, especially with the description "black-coloured crowns, with
rippled markings"? But the first glimpse of the material destroyed any
doubt, and made the palaeoherptologists' heart beat faster: here were teeth
and toe-bones of a sauropod identical in all respects except size to the
famous North American sauropods. It seemed at first probable that these
would remain isolated finds from a quarry in Lower Saxony which had drifted
in by chance from the Upper Jurassic sea. But more and more bones and teeth
came out of the same horizon in from collection in the Winter 1998/99. In
early 1999, overwhelmed by the number of finds coming out of the locality,
Holger Lüdke, knowing  its' international importance and mindful of the need
to protect it from private collectors, informed the natural history section
of the Niedersächsischen Landsmuseum of the locality. The first trial
investigations a few days later produced new finds, amongst which were some
of the prize pieces found by the team of Angelica and Gerd Schwager.
Preparation of an unremarkable 40cm block of matrix revealed a fragment of
from the anterior part of the skull of a juvenile sauropod!. There revealed
were both halves of the lower jaw, complete with teeth and lying across it a
tooth-bearing fragment of the upper jaw that belonged to the same animal
beyond any doubt. Further fragments from the back of the skull were found
scattered through the matrix. This remarkable find was completed by further
skull fragments, of which the finest are in a private collection: a complete
upper skull bone (maxilla) with four empty and four tooth-bearing alveoli

The value of the site was enhanced by the multiplicity of skull fragments
which showed that this was not just a single individual, but that the
locality contained several animals. Here were not only the first sauropod
remains from Germany, but the fist juvenile sauropods from the whole of
Europe, and this is the form of  a herd of which, judging from the number of
shoulder blades, at least six were lying in the rock.. The regional Museum
in Hamburg was unable to run a dinosaur excavation because of rebuilding and
prior commitments, so the Dinosaurier-Freilichtsmuseum in Münchenhagen
stepped in and provided expert technical advice and labour.

Since the beginning of April 1999 the process of rescuing stone blocks
containing dinosaur bones and transporting them to Münchenhagen has been in
progress. At the same time preparators have found up to now (the end of
August 1999) from in total about 35 tons of bone-bearing stone notable and
well-preserved bones, among them an almost complete sacrum comprised of four
vertebral centra ossified together, or a "bone-cake" made of a neck
vertebra, a rib and a shoulder blade. In a medium sized block were found: a
fibula, a femur, a coracoid, rib fragments, back vertebrae and a tooth! As
well, they have found claws, neck and tail vertebrae, as well as ribs and
numerous isolated teeth.

The Bone-Bed consists of a grey-green marl, and is being investigated
sedimentologically . 95% of the material from the bed is mono-specific
sauropod bones. Rare but important additional material are teeth of the
crocodilian genus Goniopholis remains of pterosaurs.

In spite of all the variability, the material seems to come from a single
sauropod genus. Problems come from the juvenile nature of the material. For
example, the edges of shoulder blades are very thin and usually broken and
joint elements, usually ossified in sauropods are usually missing. At the
same time, important skull elements are preserved which are unfortunately
missing from comparable sauropod finds from other parts of Europe.

First analysis suggests that this is a sauropod showing characters of the
families Camarosauridae and Brachiosauridae. If it is an early Brachiosaur,
such as is represented from a few finds from England and France, can only be
diagnosed with certainty by analysis of the post-cranial skeleton.

Daily the preparators reveal more and new elements. At the moment the quarry
is not producing any more dinosaur remains, so for the time being the tasks
are preparation, display and expert investigation. Prepared material is on
display in the Dinosaurier-Freilichtsmuseum in Münchenhagen in several
cases, and the preparation of the bones  can be followed 'live'.

In order to secure financial security for the  work on this significant
European find, a an "Association for the Support of Palaeontology in Lower
Saxony" has been set up, based in Münchenhagen

1.    Tooth of a juvenile sauropod. Photo B.Tomasi

2.    Nils Knötscke, Preparator from the Dinosaurier-Freilichtmuseum
of Münchenhagen making safe for transport a block of
matrix containing dinosaur bones in the quarry.

3.    Perpared bones of a juvenile sauropod. Photo: B. Tomasi

4.      Two shoulder-blades in a block of marl. Photo: H. Lüdke

5.      Hanna Lüdke, daughter of  the discoverer of the site holds the
shoulder blade of a sauropod. Photo H.Lüdke

6.      Shoulder blade of a juvenile sauropod at an earlier stage of
preparation. Photo A. and G. Schwager

English translation kindly provided by
Richard Forrest

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