Jack Wilkin (UK)
The Museum am Löwentor in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, is one of the world’s greatest depositories of fossils. The museum was founded in 1985 and, since then, it has built up a vast collection of over 4.1 million fossils and has a 3,500m2 exhibition space, spilt over two levels.
It is organised in chronological order. As you progress through the building, you can trace the evolution of life on Earth from the first cells all the way to the present, telling a more-or-less complete story of Germany’s geological history. This brief article will focus on just a few of the highlights at the museum.
The amber collection
The museum houses roughly 30,000 amber specimens from around the world, including samples from the Dominican Republic, the Baltics and the Lebanon, to name just a few places. The highlights of the collection include the largest piece of amber in the world from the Miocene of Borneo, as well as the world’s biggest damselfly and dragonfly inclusions.
There is an extensive collection of Triassic vertebrates from Baden-Württemberg, including, not just complete skeletal reconstructions, but also realistic life models.
One group that is featured in the exhibit were the placodonts – an enigmatic group of marine reptiles that superficially resemble turtles, although the two groups are unrelated. Many species, such as Placodus gigas, had large, flat teeth designed for crushing shells.
The apex land predator of Central Europe at the time was the 5.6m, Batrachotomus. It was an agile hunter, as shown by its erect posture (although the legs are not were not located directly under the trunk and the limbs were not equal in length, because the forelimbs were about 70% of the length of the hindlimbs). Tooth marks have been found on the giant predatory amphibian, Mastodonsaurus, which have been confirmed as belonging to Batrachotomus. However, it is unknown whether this is evidence of predation or scavenging.
Ice age mammals
The museum houses a collection of over 900,000 quaternary mammal specimens, with the focus on local Pleistocene megafauna. The exhibit is dominated by a display depicting mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) reconstructed both as skeletons and life reconstructions.