Segments in this Video

Prehistoric Mammal Introduction (01:45)


In this episode of "Fossil Wonderlands," Professor Richard Fortey travels to Germany to study fossils from 50 million years ago.

Messel Pit Ecosystem (01:19)

A former quarry in Germany contains fossilized mammals, insects, birds, plants and fish.

Messel Pit History (02:45)

Fortey explains how shale layers in the former quarry have preserved organic material. Learn how slabs are excavated and examined for fossils.

Ida Fossil (03:43)

Some paleontologists believe a preserved primate discovered in the Messel Pit is our oldest ancestor.

Living Fossil Relatives (04:02)

A 3D model of Ida's skull reveals the primate was an herbivore. Fortey studies lemurs to understand her characteristics and behavior.

Messel Pit Flora (02:57)

Fortey studies fossilized plants to understand the site's climate and ecosystem.

Messel Pit Insects (01:51)

A fossilized leaf insect bears similarities to its modern counterpart—suggesting it spread to Asia from Germany.

"Dawn" Horse (06:49)

A fossilized mammal from the Messel Pit is the ancestor of modern horses. It lived in a rain forest and had multiple toes; learn how hoofs evolved for mobility in grasslands.

Messel Pit Bats (03:00)

Fossils of seven different bat species occupying diverse habitat locations show early specialization.

Messel Pit Reptiles (02:02)

Contrary to popular belief, reptiles evolved alongside mammals in the Eocene epoch. A snake fossil contains a lizard and a beetle.

Messel Pit Insects (02:30)

Fortey examines a fossilized cockroach, giant ants, and a jewel beetle.

Fossil Color Preservation (04:55)

Replicating the fossilization process reveals that modern jewel beetle color patterns are similar to their 50 million old counterparts.

Messel Lake Formation (01:48)

Learn how volcanic activity in Eocene Germany created conditions for the fossilized ecosystem.

Messel Lake Fossil Theories (03:47)

Some experts believe a volcanic carbon dioxide layer killed animals coming to drink. Others propose that poisonous bacteria from seasonal algae were responsible.

Saving Messel Pit (01:27)

In the '70s, the German government tried to sell the fossil site. A conservationist reflects on the campaign for UNESCO world heritage status.

Messel Pit Menu (02:01)

Fortey samples insects, mammal meat, and fruit representing Eocene era flora and fauna.

Evolutionary Lessons (01:42)

Fortey reflects on his fossil investigation that revealed how species evolved in creative bursts.

Credits: The Mammal Hothouse (00:37)

Credits: The Mammal Hothouse

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

The Mammal Hothouse: Fossil Wonderlands—Nature’s Hidden Treasures

Part of the Series : Fossil Wonderlands: Nature’s Hidden Treasures
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



Professor Richard Fortey investigates the remains of ancient volcanic lake in Germany where stunningly well-preserved fossils of early mammals, giant insects and even perhaps our oldest known ancestor have been found. Among the finds are bats as advanced and sophisticated as anything living today, 50 million years later; dog-sized 'Dawn' horses, the ancestor of the modern horse; and giant ants as large as a hummingbird. A BBC Production.

Length: 50 minutes

Item#: BVL60459

ISBN: 978-1-60057-503-7

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.