The Messel Pit is a no longer used quarry near the village of Messel which is located about 35 km south east of Frankfurt, Germany. The quarry was used to mine bituminous shale. On December 9, 1995, the Messel Pit was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The Messel Pit has been known for its fossils since about 1900, but was not seriously excavated for scienific study until the 1970's. The Messel Pit was closed to collecting in 1974. Therefore only specimens collected before that date are available to the market today.
Fifty million years ago, during the Geiseltalion Period, the Messel area was covered by a large series of lakes which were surrounded by lush sub-tropical forest that supported an incredibly diverse variety of life forms. The oil shale, present today, was created by the slow decomposition of dead vegetation in an anoxic environment combined with the fine grained sediments which accumulated at the bottom of these lakes. Because the plants and animals were deposited at the bottom of these lakes where there was little or no oxygen present, very little disturbance or scavenging would have taken place. This, along with the fine grained sediments, led to the excellent preservation of complete skeletons, including skin, fur, and feathers in some cases.
It is believed that the Messel Pit area was geologically active during the Eocene. Subsurface shifts may have periodically released concentrations of gasses (carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide) into the lake and surrounding areas, overwhelming and killing any animals which were nearby.
You will find that nearly all specimens from Messel, Germany will be encased in epoxy, resin or Lucite. This is due to the fact that the shale layers that the fossils are found in are made up of about 40% water and 8% oil, When the water evaporates, the shale and the fossils become very unstable and they turn to powder. The surface of the fossils are stabilized with resin, to prevent this decomposition, and later, as time permits, they are further prepared and encased in resin or Lucite.
Darwinius masillae - "Ida" was discovered in 1983 and described scientifically in 2007. The genus Darwinius was named to commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin and the name masillae honors the location where it was found. The fossil is 23 inches long with the head and body making up about 9.4 inches of this length.
The authors of the paper describing Ida classified her as a member of the primate family Notharctidae and the superfamily Cercamoniidae, which suggests that it is a significant transitional form, or link between prosimian and simian (anthropoid) primate lineages. Not everyone agrees with the placement.
Ida is the third species of primate to be discovered at the Messel quarries and belongs to the family adapiforms, which were early primates that are only found in the fossil record.
Ida's teeth revealed that she had unerupted molars in her jaw, indicating that she was a juvenile probably 9-10 months old, with full adulthood being reached at 36 months. The shape of her jagged molars would have allowed her to slice food, such as leaves and seeds. This is confirmed by the gut contents. The lack of a baculum (penis bone) found in all lower primates, indicates she was a female. She shares some characteristics with prosimians (like lemurs), but lacks the toothcombs and grooming claw which are lemur attributes. She does have opposable big toes and nail bearing fingers which confirm her to be a primate. A foot bone called the talus bone links Ida to humans.
The original specimen was purchased by the University of Oslo Natural History Museum in Norway for about $750,000.00
Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Primates, Superorder: Strepsirrhini, Family: Adapidae, Genus: Darwinius, Species: masillae.
Darwinius masillae - "Ida"
Quantity in Basket:
Shipping Weight: 3.00 pounds
Time: Middle Eocene Epoch approximately 49 million years ago |
Location: Messel Formation, Germany
Dimensions: 22" x 15-1/2" x 1"