Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 47 (2): 318, 2002
Dietl, G. and Schweigert, G. 2001. Im Reich der Meerengel. Verlag Dr.
Friedrich Pfeil, München, Germany. 144 pages (hardback).
The Late Jurassic
(Kimmeridgian) localities of the Swabian Alb (Baden-Württemberg), Germany, have
yielded a diverse flora and fauna including, in some cases, spectacularly
complete, richly informative specimens. One of the oldest known localities is
the Nusplingen Plattenkalk of Egesheim near Nusplingen. Since its discovery in
1839 this locality has yielded some of the most spectacular fossil finds, such
as the pterosaurs described by Oskar Fraas and Friedrich August Quenstedt in
1855. Such finds raised hopes for further discoveries which led to many attempts
to excavate the rich petrified treasures of the Nusplinger Plattenkalk.
A new book published by authors affiliated with the Staatliches Museum Für Naturkunde Stuttgart,
describes the latest and most successful, scientific excavation at this famous
locality that has been continuing since 1993. From that time more than 7000
specimens have been found and over 250 kinds of plants and animals described,
among them the title monkfish a shark similar to a skate, sea crocodiles,
pterosaurs, crayfish and Land plants of exquisite preservation. The new
excavations have benefitted tremendously from the application of modern methods
and more comprehensive approaches that have included contributions by
sedimentologists and taphonomists. This has shed new light on the fossil finds.
One can only hope that other institutions will follow Staatliches Museum Für
Naturkunde Stuttgart example and will return with these new methods to the many
other localities which were initially discovered and excavated in past
centuries. The book begins with an extensive review of the history of the
locality. This is followed by descriptions of the geological setting, methods of
excavation and fossil preparation. Paleogeographic maps and reconstructions of
the environments enable the reader to imagine the realm of the monkfish. The
overview of the past fossil finds includes flora and fauna: sponges, mollusks,
arthropods, brachiopods, bryozoans, echinoderms, fishes and reptiles. Coprolites
are mentioned also. a listing of all the Nusplingen Plattenkalk biota is
provided. The protected area of the excavation ("Nusplinger Plattenkalk") is
In the second part of the
book, the importance and scientific meaning of selected finds is explained. Some
specimens are presented with exceptional detail. The excellent color photographs
of the fossils, drawings of important elements, together with accurate
descriptions and sometimes pictorial restorations enable the reader to imagine
the biology of the organisms and to understand their life style. Various,
moderately preserved radiolarians are also very well presented. The authors
provide many detailed descriptions and photographs of some of the many species
of ammonites, crustaceans, and fishes. a vast bibliography completes the work;
there is no Index, however.
In summary, this book
provides a comprehensive overview of the present state of paleontological
research at this famous locality. It was written by specialists, but it should
appeal both to the professionals and to the general public interested in natural
history. This volume thus serves the dual function of providing an extremely
useful, Single-source compendium of previous results, and, because of the many
splendid illustrations, an object of great esthetic value. It can thus serve as
a great gift for professional paleontologists, amateur enthusiasts of
paleontology, and the general public.
Tomasz Sulej (firstname.lastname@example.org), Instytut Paleobiologii PAN, ul. Twarda 51/55, PL-00-818
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