Nusplingen Lithographic Limestone

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Book review: 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).

A fossil lagerstaette of late Kimmeridgian age from the Swabian Alb.

  The Nusplingen Lithographic Limestone is a fossil site similar to the famous Tithonian Solnhofen Lithographic Limestones of Franconia, but of late Kimmeridgian age (Beckeri Zone, Ulmense Subzone). It is located in the western part of the Swabian Alb, few kilometers north of the Upper Danube Valley (SW Germany). The laminated limestones were deposited in the more ore less anoxic environment of a lagoon surrounded by sponge/microbial bioherms, some of them partly uplifted over the sea level as small islands.

History

The first fossils from this site were reported from the middle of the 19th century. New excavations by the Natural History Museum of Stuttgart in the Nusplingen Lithographic Limestone in two small quarries proliferate new data on its sedimentology, palaeoecology, taphonomy and biostratinomy.
Since 1993 more than 7000 fossils of about 180 taxa were found, many of them new. They tell us interesting stories about sea life in or around the Nusplingen lagoon.

Plants

Very impressive is the extraordinary preservation of fossils in some bituminous layers of the limestones.

The land plants (e.g. Cycadopteris, Brachyphyllum) from the bituminous strata are still preserved with their organic tissue with finest details like cell-structures and stomata.

Ammonites and Nautilids

Most spectacular are ammonites and nautilids, both with their complete jaw apparatuses (lower and upper jaws).
Sometimes even their stomach contents which is characteristic of every genus (e.g. decapods in nautilids, special sponges in Lithacoceras, small ammonites in Neochetoceras).

Belemnites and  Teuthoids

Belemnite guards are very often bitten by predators.

Teuthoids are preserved with their ink sacks.

Arthropods

Among the arthropods, marine worms sometimes exhibit a soft-part preservation. The new material included the first record of a centipede from the Jurassic. Other remarkable fossils are several insects like dragon-flies, partly also preserved in organic matter, and many well-preserved decapods (Antrimpos, Dusa, Coleia, Cycleryon, Eryma etc.), some of them showing the compound eyes.

Sponges

Complete specimens of non-rigid sponges like the rhax-bearing Codites are rather common. Formerly, they were mis-interpreted as marine algae.

Echinoids

Echinoids, ophiurids, and crinoids (Pterocoma, Saccocoma) also occur, but they are always rare except of the planctonic Saccocoma.

Fishes and Reptiles

Among the vertebrates, many fishes are recorded, like elasmobranchii, holocephali, crossopterygii,and actinopterygii. The most typical fossil of the Nusplingen site, however, is the angel shark Squatinaacanthoderma.

Reptiles are represented by marine crocodiles (Geosaurus, Dacosaurus) and pterosaurs (Gallodactylus, Pterodactylus, Rhamphorhynchus).

Ichnofauna

In contrast to the lithographic limestones of the Solnhofen area (Germany, Bavaria), the ichno-fauna is much more diverse, although restricted to some special layers, whereascoprolites are always frequent.

Radiolarians

Among the microfossils more than 60 species of radiolarians were identified. They are rather well-preserved in the surroundings of some intercalated siliceous layers. Other radiolaria which are not silicified can be only identified in thin sections.

 

Both the diversity of the fossil fauna and flora and its exceptional preservation underline the importance of the Nusplingen shale for palaeontology. Hence, the excavations in the Nusplingen Lithographic Limestone will be continued in the following years.

 

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