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
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