Fossil of the Year 2018

Lepidodendron was widespread in Europe and North America around 320 to 300 million years ago. Members of this genus can be found on nearly every coal dump. Remains of this extinct fossil plant, which belongs to the lycopsids, are very common and of both scientific and historical importance.

Lycopsids grew in humid areas and were dominant in the vast Upper Carboniferous swamp forests. They provided up to 90 % of the biomass that was later converted to coal. The industrialization beginning in the mid 19th century would not have been possible without coal.

Fossil of the Year 2017

2017's Fossil of the Year is the Upper Cretaceous oyster Pycnodonte (Phygraea) vesiculare. This extinct oyster is one of over twenty species in the genus Pycnodonte, which lived in our oceans around 70 million years ago. These bivalves have been a very successful group since at least the Jurassic. The shell is very variable in shape and thickness. Pycnodonte (Phygraea) vesiculare settled on hard substrate after a free-swimming larval phase.

This oyster lived from the Cenomanian to Maastrichtian (c. 100 to 66 million years ago) and is found in Europe, West- and North-Africa, South-India and New Caledonia. It is particularly well-known from the Chalk Cliffs of the Island Rügen in the Baltic Sea.

This widely known fossil oyster species was awarded Fossil of the Year 2017 due to its scientific and historical importance.

Fossil of the Year 2016

This year's Fossil of the Year was the Upper Jurassic bony fish Leptolepides sprattiformis. Around 150 million years ago (Upper Kimmeridgian to Lower Tithonian), it inhabited the Jurassic seas from southern Franconia to Regensburg and the Swabian Alps. Swarms of these fossils can be found in the area of Solnhofen and Langenaltheim.

Fossil of the Year 2015

With a length of 2.5 meters, Arthropleura armata is the largest terrestrial arthropod that was ever found. This species lived about 330 to 290 million years ago. Its fossils were already found more than 160 years ago. It was awarded Fossil of the Year 2015 due to its historical importance.

Unequivocal evidence of this animal spans the late Mississippian to Lower Permian of Europe and North-America. Arthropleura preferred river landscapes usually dominated by horsetails.

Fossil of the Year 2014

This crinoid lived over 185 million years ago and reached lengths of almost 20 meters. Many people know it from the Posidonia shale of southern Germany or from large museums, the giant crinoid Seirocrinus subangularis, also known as "Caput Medusæ". Due to its historical significance and prominence, it was voted Fossil of the Year 2014 by the board of the Paläontologische Gesellschaft.

Crinoids are marine animals belonging to the phylum Echinodermata. They are related to sea urchins and starfish. The crinoid skeleton is comprised of individual calcareous elements, held together by connective tissue.

Crinoids first appeared about 480 million years ago. They were connected to the ocean floor by long stems and have a mouth surrounded by at least five arms, with which they catch and eat plankton. They had a high diversity throughout the Paleozoic, but only few survived into the Mesozoic. Less than 200 species of crinoids are known today, all deep-sea inhabitants.

Fossil of the Year 2013

During the annual conference in Berlin in 2012, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Paläontologische Gesellschaft, the Gomphotherium from Gweng of the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie was awarded the Fossil of the Year 2013.

The skeleton of the Gomphotheriums was found in Mühldorf, Bavaria, and has been the central display in the Paläontologisches Museum in Munich for over 30 years. This colossal proboscid with four tusks and an impressive shoulder height of three meters and body length of five meters lived 10 million years ago in subtropical Central Europe. 

Fossil of the Year 2012

Several incomplete skeletons and an exceptionally well-preserved skull of Brachiosaurus brancai were excavated from 150-million-year-old sedimentary rocks in the vicinity of Tendaguru Hill. The large number of bones made this species the largest completely documented dinosaur. The bones used for the reconstruction of the famous skeleton that has been the center of the exhibit in the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin since 1937 were found in 1909.

The remains of this gigantic dinosaur were found during the legendary German Tendaguru Expedition, which is still considered one of the largest and most successful vertebrate paleontological expeditions in history. A total of 235 tons of dinosaur bones were excavated and brought to Berlin.

Fossil of the Year 2011

This 1.72 x 3.06-m slab shows three skeletons of a xenacanthid freshwater shark from the Saar-Palatinate Rotliegend Group (Meisenheim-Formation, Lower Permian). It was excavated by the team of Arnulf and Harald Stapf from the Paläontologisches Museum Nierstein as 30 individual slabs. It was prepared at the Naturhistorisches Museum Schleusingen by Georg Sommer for 1.5 years, beginning in 2007.

The three skeletons belong to the shark family Xenacanthidae, which were prevalent in the Rotliegend (latest Carboniferous to Middle Permian) and became extinct in the Upper Triassic. Particularly striking is the dorsal spine, the dorsal fin that ran along the entire length of the back, and the unusal shape of the tail and anal fins. The form of the teeth is also very characteristic.

Fossil of the Year 2010

This Permian calamite was buried in a volcanic eruption around 290 million years ago. It was discovered in Chemnitz-Hilbersdorf (Saxony) in 2008, and a length of 10 meters was excavated by October 2009. This multi-branched giant horsetail is of particular significance for paleobotanists, since it refutes the previous assumption that these plants only occurred as unbranched forms in the Permian.

More than 300 fossil plants have been excavated, including this giant horsetail, Arthropitys bistriata, which has been named Fossil of the Year 2010.

Fossil of the Year 2009

It was the find of the century: The best preserved carnivorous dinosaur (theropod) ever found in Europe. It was discovered in the Solnhofen Plattenkalk, a Jurassic lagerstaette in the Altmühltal region (Bavaria). In 2006, the new dinosaur genus received the name Juravenator - Jurassic hunter.

Together with many theropods found in the Lower Cretaceous of China in recent years, Juravenator revolutionized our knowledge of the appearance of this group of dinosaurs. Mineralized remains of soft parts, such as the scaly skin on the tail, can be seen. Due to its outstanding scientific significance, this attractive fossil has been named Fossil of the Year 2009 by the Paläontologische Gesellschaft.

Fossil of the Year 2008

In 1887, an ammonite with a diamater of 1.36 meters was found in a quarry near Seppenrade (North Rhine-Westphalia), approximately 25 km south-west of Münster. Prof. Dr. Hermann Landois, director and founder of the former Westfälisches Provinzialmuseum für Naturkunde and director of the zoological section of the Westfälischer Provinzialverein für Wissenschaft und Kunst in Münster believed that the largest ammonite in the world was now now in Westphalia.

This fossil was a sensation - until February 23rd, 1895. Landois received a telegram from Seppenrade, stating a second giant ammonite has been found in the same quarry. This one had a diameter of 1.80 meters.

To this day, the second find is the largest ammonite worldwide. Landois described it as Pachydiscus seppenradensis. Later, researchers placed the fossil with the genus Parapuzosia, so today it is named Parapuzosia seppenradensis.

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