Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment

Palaeontology

Terrestrial ecosystems and terrestrial climates were and are of crucial importance for the evolution of humans and their environments. They are extremely dynamic and are characterized by a strong spatial and temporal heterogeneity.

The research into the ecosystems and the climate of the continents is therefore dependent on the one hand on a chronology that has the highest-resolution as possible and on a spatially extensive data basis, but on the other hand also on a large number of methodological approaches. The group works with vertebrates and plants as proxies and it works terrain-oriented (own field work and excavations). In our research, we also use isotope geochemical and geophysical approaches, as well as database-supported analyses.  

1. The Paleontological Collections in Tübingen

a.) Collections

  • Systematic Paleontology of Vertebrates
  • Systematic Paleontology of Invertebrates
  • Stratigraphic Paleontology
  • Publication Collection (fossils from 1500+ publications)
  • Micropaleontology
  • Paleobotany

b.) Overview and history

The six palaeontological collections of the University of Tübingen were established as a research and teaching collection in the early 18th century. To this day, the primary aim has been to grant the scientific community access to often unique material. Beyond that, the palaeontological collections of the university are obligated to support education in order to give students an understanding of the work with fossil material. Last but not least, they are prerequisite for numerous student research projects. Additionally, in order to illustrate Earth history to a broad public audience, numerous outstanding finds are presented in the museum.

Of special value are the fossils illustrated in the works of Friedrich August Quenstedt. In addition, the museum also contains the fossils from works of Auer, Branco, Broili, Bronn, E. and O. Fraas, Hauff, Heer, Hennig, v. Huene, Jaeger, Koken, Naef, Pompeckj, Schindewolf, Schlegelmilch, Seilacher, Westphal, Wiedmann and Zittel.

The collection mirrors the activity of Friedrich August Quenstedt (Triassic and Jurassic of the Swabian cuesta landscape), of the world-famous vertebrate palaeontologist Friedrich von Huene (Triassic Saurians), of the invertebrate palaeontologist Otto Heinrich Schindewolf (Jurassic and Cretaceous ammonites) and the founder of modern palaeoichnology, Adolf (“Dolf”) Seilacher, who has not only built up an outstanding trace fossil collection, but also the exhibition „Fossil Art“, was on a worldwide tour.

The publicly accessible collection is in its structure and presentation strongly historicizing which underlines the importance of history of science and grants a view in a natural history cabinet from a time one hundred years ago.

Along with numerous marine reptiles, the collection offers a presentation of therapsids, or mammal-like reptiles, unique in their form, a group of skeletons of the Swabian dinosaur Plateosaurus, a pair of cave bears, and an overview of the development of the prehistoric world and presents numerous, outstanding finds from Baden-Wuerttemberg, among others.

The palaeontological collections of the University of Tübingen contain an estimated number of 1 Mio. objects. At present, 50.000 of them are digitally inventoried. There is fossil material documenting over 1.500 scientific publications.

Most of the collections’ materials are kept in a sliding cabinet system in the ground floor of the building. Substantial collection materials originate from the late 19th and early 20th century. Numerous invertebrate finds were added to the collection in the period between 1950-1970. A set of private collections, to supplement the already rich material, were donated to the institute over centuries.

For scientists from all over the world, we offer the possibility to visit our collection or loan material for scientific purposes. The paleontological collections have an office for guest scientists.

Please cite our collection as follows:
Palaeontological Collections of Tübingen University, Sigwartstraße 10, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
The acronym of our collections is GPIT (according to the former name of the department: Geologisch-Palaeontologisches Institut Tuebingen).
The valid numbers are formatted as follows: GPIT/1234 (still published material) or GPIT/MA/01234 (material which hasn’t been published or was not inventoried until 2010).

c.) Literature

Christner J., Kühner G. (1989). 400 Millionen Jahre Landpflanzen. Führer zur Ausstellung von Pflanzenfossilien im Geologischen Institut der Eberhard-karls-Universität Tübingen. Attempto Verlag, Tübingen.

Hennig E. (1923). Führer durch die Sammlungen des Geologisch-Paläontologischen Instituts der Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen. E. Schweizerbartsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart.

Hinz J.K., Werneburg I. (im Druck). The Historical Archive of the Paleontological Collection Tübingen, Germany. Palaeontologia Electronica 22.2.26A: 1-94.

Koken E. (1905). Das Geologisch-Mineralogische Institut in Tübingen.

Kretschmer J. (1974). Die Sammlungen der Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen Akademisches Presseamt der Universität Tübingen, Tübingen.

Seidl E., Ed. (2016). Museen + Sammlungen der Universität Tübingen. Schriften des Museums der Universität Tübingen MUT. Tübingen, Universität Tübingen.

von Engelhard W., Hölder H. (1977). Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie an der Universität Tübingen von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart. J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen.

Weishampel D.B., Westphal F. (1986). Die Plateosaurier vron Trossingen im Geologischen Institut der Eberhard-Karls-Univesität Tübingen. Attempto Verlag, Tübingen.

Werneburg I. (2016). Die Paläontologische Sammlung. In: Seidl E. (Hrsg.) Museen + Sammlungen der Universität Tübingen. Universität Tübingen, Tübingen,S. 92-97.

Werneburg I. (2017). Friedrich August Quenstedt. Senckenberg Natur, Forschung, Museum 147: 114-115.

Werneburg I., Betz O. (2018). Das 60. Phylogenetische Symposium in Tübingen: Funktionsmorphologie und Bionik – Einführung. In: Werneburg I., Betz O. (Hrsg.) 60. Phylogenetisches Symposium. Funktionsmorphologie und Bionik. Programm und Abstracts. 23. – 25. November 2018. Scidinge Hall Verlag, Tübingen,S. 3-15.

Werneburg I., Böhme M. (2018). The Paleontological Collection Tübingen. In: Beck L.A., Joger U. (Hrsg.) Paleontological Collections of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Springer, Berlin, S. 505-512.

Westphal F. (1988). Die Säugerähnlichen Reptilien im Geologischen Institut der Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen. Attempto Verlag.

2. Exhibtion

a.) Corridors and staircase

In the stairway, numerous skeletons of ichthyosaurs and marine crocodiles from the Posidonia Shale formation (approximately 184 million years old) of Holzmaden welcome the visitor of the palaeontology collections.

Particularly favourable conditions on the sea-bottom have permitted the fossils to remain nearly intact, even soft parts or embryos have been conserved in some cases.

In the entryway of the museum, some exciting trace fossils of Palaeozoic and Mesozoic age from Spain, Italy and Germany can be seen.

b.) Plateosaur Hall

The “Schwäbische Lindwurm”, as the plateosaur is also called, is an early dinosaur of the Triassic, and can be admired in two fossil skeletons. They have been already constructed in 1928 and presented according to instructions of their excavator, Friedrich von Huene. A strongly armoured Kentrosaurus from Tanzania, as well as a fossilized pathway of Chirotherium or “hand -beast”, frame the impressive skeletons.

c.) Marine Reptiles Hall

The world of the Jurassic sea is the topic of this hall. Numerous skeletons of ichthyosaurs from the Posidonia Shale formation are presented here, in addition to a row of marine crocodiles, plesiosaurs, fishes, and sharks, which lived between 200-145 million years ago in Germany and England.

Among them are large opportunistic feeders like Temnodontosaurus, which reached up to 15 m, and fossil coelacanths, living fossils. In one side room is a skeleton of the placondont Henodus, a reptile, which has only been found locally so far, in the region at Tübingen-Lustnau.

Several skeletons of flying reptiles complete the display of findings from the Jurassic sea. Beyond that in the side room, two six-meter-long mosasaurs, large predators of the Cretaceous, are displayed as well.

d.) Württemberg Hall

Skeletons of two cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) and of a wolf (Canis lupus) from Pleistocene sediments of the Erpfingen Bear Cave on the Swabian Alb are shown.

Baden-Württemberg ranks among the most classical find areas for geology and paleontology.

An abundance of unique fossils offers views of the different ecosystems from Württemberg’s geological history.

The oldest deposits formed about 300 million years ago, the most recent before some ten thousand years ago in the Erpfinger bear cave, whose cave bear skeletons are original fossils.

e.) Stratigraphic Hall

Under the Swabian Medusenhaupt, an enormous sea-lily colony from the Posidonia Shale formation of Ohmenhausen near Reutlingen (approximately 183 million years old), a large collection of fossils of all earth ages is displayed in stratigraphic succession.

The presentation shows the most important steps of evolution over the last 500 million years.

The special character of this room is due to natural cabinetry from the 19th century, which highlights the historical showcase in collection cabinets made of oak.

3. Curation

PD Dr. Ingmar Werneburg

Senckenberg Center for Paleoenvironment an der Universität Tübingen

Sigwartstraße 10

D-72076 Tübingen

For scientific requests: ingmar.werneburg@senckenberg.de

For guided tours: 07071/2972998