Earth and Life pp 225-236 | Cite as

Messel Pit Fossil Site – The Legacy of the Environment and Life of the Eocene

  • Stephan SchaalEmail author
Part of the International Year of Planet Earth book series (IYPE)


The Messel Pit, between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, is the richest site in the world for understanding the living environment of the Eocene (about 50 million years ago). It provides unique information about the early stages of the evolution of mammals, and details of exceptionally well-preserved fossils from fully articulated skeletons to hair, feathers, wing membranes, and stomach contents. Many different species of plants and animals are found including crocodiles, bats, birds, reptiles, fish, turtles, insects, and even a herd of primitive horses. This paper traces the story of how the Messel “treasure chest for palaeontology” has been secured as a research resource for scientists, how it has become recognised as a heritage site, and how it is being developed as an educational and recreational facility for the general public.


Germany Eocene UNESCO World Heritage site Catastrophic setting (maar) Lacustrine sedimentation Oil shale Sub-tropical/tropical Exceptional preservation (skeletons to stomach contents) Mammals to reptiles Birds Insects Plants Biogeographic linkages 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

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