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MESSEL - An Ancient Greenhouse Ecosystem (1 Viewer)

Fred Ruhe

Well-known member
A new book will be published today:


MESSEL - An Ancient Greenhouse Ecosystem

Ed.: Krister T. Smith; Stephan F. K. Schaal; Jörg Habersetzer

2018. XV, 355 pages, 393 figures, 2 tables, 21x28cm, 1780 g
Language: English (there is also an German version)

(Senckenberg Bücher, Nr. 80)

ISBN 978-3-510-61411-0, bound, price: 54.90 €


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.
This title is also available in a German language version.

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.

Table of contents

Krister T. Smith, Stephan F. K. Schaal, Jörg Habersetzer (Eds)
MESSEL – An Ancient Greenhouse Ecosystem
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

The bird chapter is by Gerald Mayr.


Last edited:


Well-known member
Fred --

Looks like a fascinating book. I will keep an eye open for its distribution here in the U.S.

Fred Ruhe

Well-known member
Fred --

Looks like a fascinating book. I will keep an eye open for its distribution here in the U.S.

I tried to order it in the Netherlands, but even the academic book sellers Scheltema in Amsterdam can not get a copy for me. I think you can only order it directly from Schweizerbart Science Publishers, for ordering information see the link in post 1 and don't forget, there is a German and an English version.


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