There were also swimming dinosaurs in Höxter

Fiber borrows rare plesiosaurs

Plesiosaur © GNU FDL / Arthur Weasley
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The remains of a huge, four-meter-long, sea-dwelling swimming dinosaur have been discovered by researchers of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) in a clay pit in the district of Höxter. According to the scientists, the unusual thing about the find is its rarity: So far, a completely preserved skeleton of a swimming dinosaur has never before been found in northern Germany.

It is with the huge Urzeittier probably a plesiosaur. Its fossil bones are estimated by the LWL Museum of Natural History in Münster to about 185 million years, the time of the Lower Jurassic (Lias).

Two paddles and a long neck

Plesiosaurs were marine reptiles with two paddle-like fins and a long neck. The fins were sitting on a relatively rigid body, the backbone was significantly curved and received additional support by reinforced ribs. A final determination of the find, which is currently being recovered in sediment blocks, is still pending.

An employee of the LWL Museum of Natural History exposes a piece of the spine (center). © LWL

The excavation team of the paleontological preservation of the LWL Museum of Natural History has so far been able to uncover ribs, bones of the back and front extremities, such as shoulder blade and finger bones, and vertebrae. The spine was even completely recovered by the researchers. It turned out that the animal, measured by the spine length, already over four meters in length.

The dinosaur lies on its back and was exposed in this pose. Only when it was completely dissected free in the LWL Museum of Natural History, it reveals what was hitherto hidden from the bone. Only then can its final length be determined. display

Hobbypalaeontologen with sensational findings

In mid-June, the paleontologists at the Museum of Natural History had been briefed by a volunteer on the unusual discovery. He had learned about the bone find from the actual finder, two hobby palyontologists, and reported it in accordance with the regulations.

After the site inspection by a fiber optic fossil researcher began a rescue excavation. In order to avoid illegal excavations, the public was initially not informed. The excavation team stays at the dig site day and night. On the weekends, the LWL Museum of Natural History commissions a security service to watch over the clay pit.

Difficult conditions on site

The dig itself runs under difficult conditions, as the team has to fight against the rain and the rising groundwater. Water seeps out of the ground directly at the excavation site.

The bones are not individually salvaged by the scientists, but there is no time. Therefore the find is secured by so-called block recovery. Claystones with the fossil bones are coated with resin and then removed from the earth with a lot of surrounding rock in large blocks stabilized by iron bars. So far, nine blocks with bone and sediment have been saved.

(Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL), 18.07.2007 - DLO)