Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Frankfurt

Messelforschung und Mammalogie
 Foreword - List of Participants - Conference Volume - Programme - Poster Session - Junior Researchers Award - NEW VIDEO Supporting Programme  - NEW Special Issue  - SponsorshipsGroup Photo  -  Other Photos - Important Dates
                                                             SGN conf

Messel Puzzle

The world at the Time of Messel:

Puzzles in Palaeobiology, Palaeoenvironment, and the History of Early Primates

 15th–19th November 2011


The 22nd International Senckenberg Conference

T. Lehmann, V. Mosbrugger, S.F.K. Schaal
Organising committee:
J. Habersetzer, O. Kullmer, K.T. Smith, F. Schrenk, V. Volpato, S. Wedmann, V. Wilde
hosted by
the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum

in Frankfurt am Main (Germany)


VWStiftung Logo                       KFW 

 Hassia light                                     AvH Logo

Goether Univ. Logo         APF        Bikf





     Welcome to the homepage of the 22nd International Senckenberg Conference - The World at the Time of Messel.

      Here you will find information, links, and updates about the conference programme, the abstract volume, the list of participants and presentations, awards, etc.


 List of Participants


     Illustrating the international renown of both, the Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt, and the Messel Pit Fossil Site, scientists from five continents are attending the conference. This already represents a success for our conference, as one of its goals was to present as global a view as possible of terrestrial life during the Eocene.

Download the list of participants here


 Conference volume 


Kopidodon     We would like to express our gratitude to all authors who submitted an abstract for the 22nd International Senckenberg Conference - The World at the Time of Messel.  After a thorough review process, 80 contributions have been accepted and will be presented as oral communications (52) and posters (28) during the conference. The resulting abstracts have been bundled together and convey the outcomes of studies carried out by researchers around the world. 

     Multiple aspects of the life on earth during the Eocene are considered, from the color of fossil insects, the ecology of fungi trapped in amber, and the diversity of northern polar forest vegetation, to the relationships of worm-lizards to lizards, mammalian dispersal routes in the northern hemisphere, and the phylogeny of early primates. In the melting pot of the conference discussions, these valuable peer-reviewed abstracts complement each other and fill in the gaps in our understanding of a crucial period in earth history for terrestrial fauna and flora.

download the 17-mb version of our             Conference Volume here.           

     The Conference Volume is officially published under ISBN 978-3-929907-86-5. The complete citation information is:

LEHMANN, T. & SCHAAL, S.F.K. (eds) (2011). The World at the Time of Messel: Puzzles in Palaeobiology, Palaeoenvironment, and the History of Early Primates. 22nd International Senckenberg Conference. 15th – 19th November 2011, Frankfurt am Main. Conference Volume. Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, Frankfurt am Main. pp. 203.

     A hard copy of the Conference Volume has been distributed to all participants when checking in during the conference. Moreover, everybody has the possibility to buy the book though our Library (price 35€); send us an email if you are interested. 




You can download the Final programme here.


      PalaeopythonThe Conference - the World at the Time of Messel - took place from the 15th to the 18th of November, 2011, and was followed by a field trip to the Messel Pit on Saturday the 19th of November. Tuesday, the 15th was reserved for arrival and registration, while the four scientific sessions were distributed over the following three days. Evening events included a conference dinner, the 10th G.H.R. von Koenigswald Lecture, and a round-table discussion on the origin of anthropoids.


Download the ice breaker party photos here.

 You can download the pictures of the Dinner here

You can download photos of the Round Table here.


Poster session


You can download here the list of posters  


Poster Session: Short Oral Presentation

     As hinted in the 2nd Circular, we have especially dedicated time during the normal sessions for the authors to give a concise oral presentation of their poster. This "Short oral presentation” took place on Wednesday 16th November, starting at 5:15 pm. Thank you to all participants for the large attendance.

You can download the list of the Short oral presentations here.
  and photos of the "Wall of posters" (1 & 2).   


Junior Researchers Award


     The 22nd Senckenberg Conference honored one oral presentation and two poster presentations by junior researchers with special prizes. Junior researchers were defined for these purposes as those not having a permanent position at the time of the conference. The presentations have been judged by their scientific significance, their clarity and logic, and their attractiveness.

    During the Award Ceremony, on Friday, 18th November at 5:40 pm, following Junior researchers were awarded the prizes in the main presentation hall (Festsaal): 




Steinmann Institut, Universität Bonn (Germany)


Exceptional geochemical preservation of vertebrate remains from the Eocene Messel Pit, Germany – Paleoenvironmental and paleoecological implications of the stable isotope signatures

BEST POSTERS (ex aequo):



ISEM, Université de Montpellier (France)

Dental microwear texture analysis of three large bodied adapids from the late Eocene of the Quercy fissure fillings (France)

Walter JOYCE

Universität Tubingen (Germany)

The taphonomic settings of the Eocene Messel pit, Germany: Insights from the turtle fauna





            1.    Speaker panel

     At the end of each regular session, the session´s Chairperson organised a 15-minute Speaker Panel. This panel consisted of all speakers of the session for a discussion moderated by the Chairperson her-/himself. The public could not ask questions during this time, but the Chairperson did encourage discussions between the speakers on different topics addressed during the session. These Speaker Panels were largely a succes inasmuch as they were used to discuss future issues in each respective fields, clarify some open questions, and eventually summarise "what we know" about continental life during the Eocene, which was one of the goals of this conference.


            2.    Round table

 "Evolutionary History of Early Primates and the Origin of Modern Clades"

      At the close of the 22nd International Senckenberg Conference, a round table was organised in order to bring together international specialists on early primates from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. The round table took place at the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt. It was moderated by Eric Delson (AMNH, New York), who organised (in preparation with Ottmar Kullmer (Senckenberg)) the debates around different topics in the evolution of early primates. 
     With the recent discovery of several new Paleogene adapiforms, strepsirrhines, anthropoids, and enigmatic forms, new information on the evolutionary history of early primates has been made available and new questions have been raised. Was Africa home to a yet poorly known endemic primate lineage? Where did Anthropoidea evolve? What questions can be addressed in the near future? A lively discussion with participants of the Conference took place and was a great success. 

     Besides E. Delson, the participants in the round table were:
C.K. Beard (CMNH, Pittsburgh), J.L. Franzen (Senckenberg), P.D. Gingerich (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), M. Godinot (EPHE, Paris), G.F. Gunnell (Duke Lemur Center, Durham), W. von Koenigswald (Steinmann Institute, Bonn), A.L. Rosenberger (Brooklyn College, New York), E.R. Seiffert (Stony Brook Univ., New York), and X.J. Ni (AMNH, New York).

 You can download photos of the Round Table here.

 !!!!!!!!!  NEW            VIEW the VIDEO of the Round Table HERE                 NEW  !!!!!!!! 


             3.    Excursion: the Messel Pit Fossil Site

                    SATURDAY, 19 November 2011 - Morning

Messel Pit     The excursion included a guided tour of the Messel Pit Fossil Site, a visit to the newly opened Visitor Information Centre (Besucher- und Informationszentrum), and lunch at the “Bistro” of the Visitor Centre.

     download the Field Trip Programme here    

      The guided tour covered the regional geology and site history, including the volcanic activity that formed the ancient crater lake, as well as the history of mining activity at Messel, through which fossils were first discovered. A visit to an active excavation site run by the Senckenberg Research Institute (though not in operation on the day of the tour) provided insights into the methods by which the fossils are extracted. The Visitor Information Centre contains some excellent and imaginative visualisations of the Messel environment and its scientific study (including a trip into a virtual bore-hole).

     After the excursion, the “Ida workshop” took place (for prearranged participants only).  

                       4.    "Ida Workshop"

                      SATURDAY, 19 November 2011 - Afternoon

     The aim of this workshop was to bring together fossil primate specialists and original fossils or high quality casts of major specimens. This event represented a stimulating opportunity to discuss and compare Eocene primates from all over the world.

     The meeting room and refreshments were organised at the Senckenberg Research Station in Messel.  Over 20 participants attended the workshop and most of them were able to bring along an original or high quality cast of a fossil Eocene primate. 

     This was a fantastic event where characters, phylogenetic positions, and new discoveries could be discussed over 4 hours. Junior Researchers present during the Workshop benefited from the experience and generosity of the established researchers. In and all, this workshop was considered a real success by the participants who were able to close the discussions by a dinner in a restaurant nearby.  

     We would like to use this opportunity to thank the President of the SGN, Dietmar Schmid, and the Vice President of the SGN, Emmerich Müller, for their personal sponsorship of this event.


Special Issue


Rutacee     In addition to the Conference Volume, we published several articles in a special issue of the journal Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments dedicated to the 22nd Senckenberg Conference 2011 “The World at the Time of Messel”. Guest Editors of this issue are Thomas Lehmann and Stephan Schaal.      

                     You can access the Special Issue here






            1.    Humboldt sponsorship 

     Thanks to the A. v. Humboldt Foundation, Alumni and awardees of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation were able to receive financial support for their participation to this conference.

             2    Junior researcher sponsorship 

     Thanks to our Partner, the Volkswagen Foundation, we were able to financially assist students and post-docs who did present a paper as first author at our conference. Transportation as well as accommodation costs were completely covered by this funding. Furthermore, the Foundation also sponsored the Junior Researcher Prizes for the best oral presentation and best posters.



Group photo


   Group Photo

  You can download this picture in better quality here.



Other photos


 Click to download ZIP files of photos taken during:

Ice Breaker Party

Conference Dinner

the Sessions


    ... We are also looking for more photos ... 

 !      Please, if you are keen to share some photos with all participants, and agree to have them put on our Homepage, contact us. We are particularly looking for pictures taken during the Field Trip and the Workshop.

 !      Also, please let us know if you would rather not have a picture of yourself on our homepage. Likewise, if you are looking for specific photos, don´t hesitate to contact us





  • If you are interested in visiting the collections housed at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Frankfurt am Main, please contact Elvira Brahm and indicate which taxa you are interested in.


 Excavation in Messel

We were happy to welcome you at Senckenberg and hope to see you soon again


 Last update: 12th December 2013