A display in the Holzmaden Museum that showed the fossils found at each successive layer. They forgot to include a mannequin of a shocked German miner.Once scene showed a German miner diligently chipping away at a slab of slate. His lantern light catches a strangely colored rock embedded in the slate. He takes his chisel to the rock and reveals the body of a dolphin-like reptile. It caused a sensation. This was an antediluvian sea-monster! I remembered that excavation and fossil, but didn’t remember where exactly that scene took place. I walked into the Holzmaden Museum, and there it was: The dolphin-lizard. I had a weird feeling of déjà vu.
The glare is terrible, but if it wasn't you would be able to see a neophyte marine reptile a little south of her stomach.Also splashing around Germany were the plesiosaurs, long-necked, four-flippered animals that are usually brought into discussions of the Loch Ness Monster. Presumably these ungainly animals had to haul themselves onto the beach to lay their eggs, making it impossible for them to become as perfectly adapted to the marine environment as the Ichthyosaurs. No one is really knows how they used that long neck to snap up food, but it must have worked out for them since they thrived throughout the Mesozoic.
A plesiosaurs missing his squishy parts. There's no scale, but this guy is about the size of a dolphin.
A plesiosaurs put back together going after a small squid. No one is quite sure how lashing your neck around like that affects your hydrodynamic abilities.
Sharks have carilage skeletons, so they usually don't fossilize very well. You're looking at it's stomach (ventral view). The mouth of this guy is to the right, the gill slits V towards the top and bottom and the shells that killed him are piled up in his stomach to the left.The most spectacular fossil in the museum is a log roughly 30 yards long. Anchored to the Jurassic driftwood are over one hundred crinoids (Sea lilies). Crinoids are like starfish on sticks. They anchor themselves to the substrate and collect food as it passes through their fans. These crinoids decided to go for a ride, latching onto every available spot on the log that eventually ran aground burying everyone on board (It’s unclear if the captain went down with the ship). The fossil takes up an entire wall and took 15 years to prepare (always remember every pretty fossil you see took hours of delicate work from a preparation specialist who carefully removed the obfuscating rock).
When we went to the shale quarry we were once again set loose on an uninspiring landscape where spoil piles of chipped shale were heaped on the edge of the industrial pit. As I walked towards the chipping group I saw the yellow gleam of a shell. I had found an ammonite squid and I hadn’t even swung my hammer! After an hour of chipping I discovered the shells were ubiquitous and you would need good luck not to find one. I also found bullet like squid shells, but no vertebrate pieces. The shells sit in my room, waiting to be added to the collection in my parent’s garage.
We had taken this excursion during a school holiday and the pit was filled with children and their parents smacking away at the rocks. The sight of four year olds wielding hammers might have been cute if I didn’t fear for my digits every time they drifted near my small excavation area.