01 December 2015

1. The Moler of Limfjord

Head of a bird from the Fur Formation
Rene Sylvestersen, Wikimedia
Location: Jutland, Denmark
Formation: Fur Formation
Age: Eocene (55-53 Ma)

Sixty-six million years ago, the End-Cretaceous Extinction irrevocably altered the course of life on Earth.  Among its most prominent victims were the vast majority of dinosaurs.  Not all dinosaurs, however, disappeared at the close of the Cretaceous, and one of the oldest Cenozoic lagerstätte shows just how well their descendants were doing 10 million years after the extinction.  Along the Limfjord in northern Denmark, cliff outcrops known in Danish as moler have yielded some of the most spectacular bird fossils ever found.  These fossils are nothing short of stunning, many retaining evidence of feathers preserved in exquisite detail.  Though descended from dinosaurs, the birds of the Limfjord moler were a far cry from their Mesozoic ancestors, instead representing groups that are still extant and familiar today.  While the birds might have looked somewhat familiar to us, the world as a whole would not have.  Some of the fossils found in the Fur Formation represent tropical birds such as parrots and trogons, and fossils of other organisms - particularly plants - support the suggestion that, at the beginning of the Eocene, Denmark would have been much warmer than it is today, boasting a climate that would have been comparable to that of parts of Central America today.

Visit: The Limsfjord moler are a major natural attraction in northern Denmark that have been short-listed for World Heritage Site status.  If Google is any judge, the main local source of information is a museum on the island of Mors.
Fossils: The main collection of Fur Formation fossils in Copenhagen's Geological Museum.  I've been to the museum, but to my eternal shame, I cannot recall if any specimens from this lagerstätte are on display.
Is there a relevant book full of gorgeous fossil photos that I can gift to a paleontologically-minded friend?:  Sadly, no.

This post is part of my 2015 Paleontology Advent Calendar, a series of vignettes on lagerstätten - sites of exceptional fossil preservation - that document changes in climate and environments through the Cenozoic.  You can see the other posts here.

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