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Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt

Palaeoanthropology and Messel Research

Senckenberg Research Institute Frankfurt / Main
      and
Messel Research Station 

The new Department of Palaeoanthropology and Messel Research was founded in 2008. At the same time, the Section Mammalogy was removed from the Department of Terrestrial Zoology and joined to this new department (departmental head: Dr. S. Schaal). This merger structurally links common research interests and results in a more efficient use of existing resources for research.

The fields of scientific activity comprise five areas of expertise, to which individual research projects are assigned:

  • Messel Research: Study of the Eocene lakes in the vicinity of the village of Messel and their biotic and abiotic configuration. Analysis of the fossil fauna from Messel, especially reptiles and insects. Comparative analysis of other Eocene localities worldwide. Inferences on biodiversity, paleoecology, and climate.
  • Palaeoanthropology: Evolution of mammals, evolution and environment of the early hominids of Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia, primatology, current field work in Malawi, Kenya and Uganda (planned: Mali)
  • Radiography of Vertebrates: Reconstruction and functional morphology of the vertebrates (e.g., Messel tetrapods, skull and jaw reconstructions of early hominids) by means of advanced 3D X-ray technology (e.g., micro-X-radiography, microtomography). Functional morphology and development of models for the biomechanics of mammal reconstructions with consideration of both internal and external features.
  • Morphometry of Vertebrates: Development of new methods for the quantification of complex vertebrate structures (e.g., skulls, teeth, jaws, the inner ear, foot bones, etc.) for the analysis of evolutionary trends and the reconstruction of habitats, application of modern geometric-morphometric methods to 3D data sets of vertebrate structure.
  • Ecology and Phylogeny of Mammals: Actualistic studies on functional morphology and faunal associations in Recent habitats, reconstruction of fossil faunal communities and paleoecology.

Permanent scientific positions (Senckenberg) of the newly established department:

Departmental Leadership and Messel Research: Dr. Stephan Schaal
Tertiary Mammals: Dr. Ottmar Kullmer
Vertebrate Radiography and Paleobiology: Dr. Jörg Habersetzer 
Palaeoentomology: Dr. Sonja Wedmann
Palaeoherpetology: Dr. Krister T. Smith
Palaeomammalogy: Dr. Thomas Lehmann
Mammalogy: N.N.

Permanent external scientific positions (agreements of cooperation between Senckenberg and Goethe University):

Professor of Paleobiology of the Vertebrates, Institute for Ecology, Evolution and Diversity: Prof. Dr. Friedemann Schrenk