In the late jurassic of 150 million years ago, the southern region of Germany lay near the Tethys Ocean. Away from the coast were lagoons of still water, and between them were islands on which dinosaurs lived. But it is not land-living reptiles for which this lost world is famous, as they are rarely found. When the waters of the lagoons dried up, and their muddy sediments turned into limestone, it preserved the bodies of flying reptiles that had sunk to the bottom. As the limestone quarries of Solnhofen were opened up, more than 1,000 of these pterosaurs were revealed, together with an early bird called Archaeopteryx.


Fossils of Archaeopteryx are known only from Solnhofen. The first were found in the 1860s, and a total of nine specimens are now in existence. The fine grain of the limestone has preserved their bones and feathers in great detail.

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