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Solnhofen Lithographic Limestone, Jurassic, Bavaria

Most famous for the preservation of the feathered dinosaur Archaeopteryx, the Solnhofen Lithographic Limestone (Jurassic) outcrops over a wide area of Bavaria. The limestones are buff colored, fine grained, and extraordinarily regular, forming laminar beds traceable over tens of kilometers. They were deposited in a series of lagoons formed behind reefs. High evaporation rates and limited water exchange with the open sea caused the lagoon waters to stratify with the more dense saline waters forming a hostile bottom environment.

Over 600 species of animals and plants are preserved in the limestones (Fig. 1.9). Most animals were pelagic. Only a few benthic organisms are known from the area. It is believed that most of these animals were swept in from the open sea. Some were able to live in the less saline upper waters for short periods. Terrestrial animals and plants may have been washed in during rainy seasons and insects blown into the lagoons by the wind.

Fig. 1.9 The most common macrofossil in the Solnhofen Limestone, Bavaria: the crinoid, Saccocoma(diameter 5 cm).

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