Researchers from Heidelberg und Karlsruhe study ichthyosaur graveyard in Torres del Paine National Park at Chile’s southern tip
The cache of skeletal ichthyosaurs stumbled upon ten years ago in Chile turns out to be one of the world’s most significant fossil finds of marine reptiles from the Cretaceous period, containing many nearly fully preserved ichthyosaur skeletons as well as numerous other fossils.
This is the conclusion of a German-Chilean research team of geoscientist Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of Heidelberg University and palaeontologist Prof. Dr. Eberhard Frey of the State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe. The scientists have fully catalogued the discovery for the first time, while at the same time reconstructing the conditions that led to the excellent preservation and unusual concentration of “fish-lizard” skeletons. Their results were published in the journal “Geological Society of America Bulletin”.
In the southern summer of 2004, in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia near Chile’s southern tip, glaciologists stumbled upon the skeletal remains of ichthyosaurs, or fish-lizards, probably exposed just a few years earlier as the Patagonian glacier receded. Prof. Stinnesbeck and Prof. Frey as well as scientists in Chile have spent the last few years studying this new and scientifically rich site. In three expeditions the German-Chilean team of experts uncovered more than 40 virtually complete skeletons of adult and juvenile ichthyosaurs, and even embryos, as well as ammonites, belemnites, bivalves, bony fishes and plant remains. “This concentration is unique for Chile and South America, making the fossil site significant internationally,” explains the researcher from Heidelberg University's Institute of Earth Sciences.
According to the German-Chilean research team, the fish-lizard lived and hunted along the northeastern edge of a deep sea that then separated the Antarctic continent from Patagonia. Adults and juveniles hunted in groups in an underwater canyon rich with squid and small fish, their most important prey. As the continent gradually broke apart, earthquakes or avalanches on the steep slope occasionally unleashed devastating mudflows that sucked everything in their path down with them, including the marine reptiles.
“The air-breathing fish-lizards became disoriented in the turbidity currents. They were sucked down hundreds of metres into the deep ocean,” says Prof. Stinnesbeck. “The fine sediment that was swept along immediately entombed the dead or dying animals.”
The German Research Foundation funded the studies at the site. In addition to Prof. Stinnesbeck and Prof. Frey, Dr. Marcelo Leppe Cartes of the Instituto Antárctico Chileno (INACH), the Chilean Antarctic Institute in Punta Arenas, as well as the Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF), the Chilean National Forest Corporation, took part in the project.
Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, Eberhard Frey, Luis Rivas, Judith Pardo Pérez, Marcelo Leppe Cartes, Christian Salazar Soto and Patricio Zambrano Lobos: A Lower Cretaceous ichthyosaur graveyard in deep marine slope channel deposits at Torres del Paine National Park, southern Chile. Geological Society of America Bulletin (published online 22 May 2014), doi: 10.1130/B30964.1
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck
Institute of Earth Sciences
Phone: +49 6221 54-6057
Prof. Dr. Eberhard Frey
State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe
Phone: +49 721 175-2117
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone: +49 6221 54-2311
Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Earth Day: Disease spread among species is predictable
24.04.2015 | National Science Foundation
Warming climate may release vast amounts of carbon from long-frozen Arctic soils
24.04.2015 | University of Georgia
KAIST researchers published an article on the development of a novel technique to precisely track the 3-D positions of optically-trapped particles having complicated geometry in high speed in the April 2015 issue of Optica.
Daejeon, Republic of Korea, April 23, 2015--Optical tweezers have been used as an invaluable tool for exerting micro-scale force on microscopic particles and...
A very small and rare species of shark is swimming its way through scientific literature. But don't worry, the chances of this inches-long vertebrate biting...
Ever since computers have been small enough to be fixtures on desks and laps, their central processing has functioned something like an atomic Etch A Sketch, with electromagnetic fields pushing data bits into place to encode data.
Unfortunately, the same drawbacks and perils of the mechanical sketch board have been just as pervasive in computing: making a change often requires starting...
How is lightning initiated in thunderclouds? This is difficult to answer - how do you measure electric fields inside large, dangerously charged clouds? It was discovered, more or less by coincidence, that cosmic rays provide suitable probes to measure electric fields within thunderclouds. This surprising finding is published in Physical Review Letters on April 24th. The measurements were performed with the LOFAR radio telescope located in the Netherlands.
How is lightning initiated in thunderclouds? This is difficult to answer - how do you measure electric fields inside large, dangerously charged clouds? It was...
Max Planck researcher Buhalqem Mamtimin determines how much nitrogen oxide is released into the atmosphere from agriculturally used oases.
In order to make statements about current and future air pollution, scientists use models which simulate the Earth’s atmosphere. A lot of information such as...
23.04.2015 | Event News
23.04.2015 | Event News
13.04.2015 | Event News
24.04.2015 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2015 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2015 | Health and Medicine