Original Article

Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments

, Volume 92, Issue 4, pp 585-629

First online:

Peculiarities of the Messel fish fauna and their palaeoecological implications: a case study

  • Norbert MicklichAffiliated withNatural History Department, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt Email author 

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General aspects and some peculiarities of the Lake Messel fish fauna are presented and discussed with special focus on the palaeoenvironmental framework. The overall composition of that fauna is analysed including details such as age and growth. Palaeopathological information is derived from scale regeneration, and selected aspects of mortality and taphonomy are also investigated. Special emphasis is placed on analyses of the horizontal and vertical distribution patterns of the fishes in comparison with those of plant and arthropod records on the one hand and the orientation patterns of fish carcasses on the other hand. In this context, long- and short-term, and also local, differences and modifications are discussed. All results indicate a very particular environmental scenario. Lake Messel cannot have been steadily isolated from external water bodies during the period of time that is represented by the investigated fossils. There must instead have been various opportunities for a renovation of the lake’s fish fauna. Probably, the peculiarities of that fauna were predominantly triggered by a selective influx, which also changed during more extended periods of time. The selection could have taken place during active immigration events and by modified interactions with different types of external catchment areas. There need not necessarily have been locally fixed inlets and outlets. It is probable that there were more flexible control mechanisms, like an exchange of water with other bodies of water during occasional high water periods, and in places with a partial (or complete) erosion of the tephra wall shelter. The latter may also have varied as a function of the intensity of the respective high water events.


Palaeoecology Lake Messel Middle Eocene Fish fauna