A Lagerstätte (German: [ˈlaːɡɐˌʃtɛtə], from Lager 'storage, lair' Stätte 'place'; plural Lagerstätten) is a sedimentary deposit that exhibits extraordinary fossils with exceptional preservation—sometimes including preserved soft tissues. These formations may have resulted from carcass burial in an anoxic environment with minimal bacteria, thus delaying the decomposition of both gross and fine biological features until long after a durable impression was created in the surrounding matrix. Lagerstätten span geological time from the Neoproterozoic era to the present. Worldwide, some of the best examples of near-perfect fossilization are the Cambrian Maotianshan shales and Burgess Shale, the Devonian Hunsrück Slates and Gogo Formation, the Carboniferous Mazon Creek, the Jurassic Solnhofen limestone, the Cretaceous Santana, Yixian and Tanis[1] formations, the Eocene Green River Formation, and the Miocene Foulden Maar.

Diplomystus and Knightia Green River Fm WY
Fossil fish from the Green River Formation, an Eocene Lagerstätte


Palaeontologists distinguish two kinds:[2]

  1. Konzentrat-Lagerstätten (concentration Lagerstätten) are deposits with a particular "concentration" of disarticulated organic hard parts, such as a bone bed. These Lagerstätten are less spectacular than the more famous Konservat-Lagerstätten. Their contents invariably display a large degree of time averaging, as the accumulation of bones in the absence of other sediment takes some time. Deposits with a high concentration of fossils that represent an in situ community, such as reefs or oyster beds, are not considered Lagerstätten.
  2. Konservat-Lagerstätten (conservation Lagerstätten) are deposits known for the exceptional preservation of fossilized organisms or traces. The individual taphonomy of the fossils varies with the sites. Conservation Lagerstätten are crucial in providing answers to important moments in the history and evolution of life. For example, the Burgess Shale of British Columbia is associated with the Cambrian explosion, and the Solnhofen limestone with the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx.


Stranded scyphozoans with Climactichnites trackways - Blackberry Hill, WI - Cambrian.jpeg
Stranded scyphozoans with Climactichnites trackways from Blackberry Hill, Wisconsin (Cambrian). Scyphozoan in foreground is 10 cm (3.9 in) in diameter. Slab is in hyporelief.

Konservat-Lagerstätten preserve lightly sclerotized and soft-bodied organisms or traces of organisms that are not otherwise preserved in the usual shelly and bony fossil record; thus, they offer more complete records of ancient biodiversity and behavior and enable some reconstruction of the palaeoecology of ancient aquatic communities. In 1986, Simon Conway Morris calculated only about 14% of genera in the Burgess Shale had possessed biomineralized tissues in life. The affinities of the shelly elements of conodonts were mysterious until the associated soft tissues were discovered near Edinburgh, Scotland, in the Granton Lower Oil Shale of the Carboniferous.[3] Information from the broader range of organisms found in Lagerstätten have contributed to recent phylogenetic reconstructions of some major metazoan groups. Lagerstätten seem to be temporally autocorrelated, perhaps because global environmental factors such as climate might affect their deposition.[4]

A number of taphonomic pathways may produce Lagerstätten. The following is an incomplete list:

Important Konservat-Lagerstätten

The world's major Lagerstätten include:

    Bitter Springs 1000–850 Mya South Australia
    Doushantuo Formation 600–555 Mya Guizhou Province, China
    Mistaken Point 565 Mya Newfoundland, Canada
    Ediacara Hills 550–545? Mya South Australia
    Qingjiang biota 518 Mya Hubei province, China
    Sirius Passet 518 Mya Greenland
    Maotianshan Shales (Chengjiang) 515 Mya Yunnan Province, China
    Emu Bay Shale 513 Mya South Australia
    Kaili Formation 513–501 Mya Guizhou province, south-west China
    Blackberry Hill ~510–500 Mya Central Wisconsin, US
    Burgess Shale 508 Mya British Columbia, Canada
    Wheeler Shale (House Range) 504 Mya Western Utah, US
    Marjum Formation 502 Mya Western Utah, US
    Weeks Formation 500 Mya Western Utah, US
    Kinnekulle Orsten and Alum Shale 500 Mya Sweden
    Fezouata Formation about 485 Mya Draa Valley, Morocco
    Beecher's Trilobite Bed 460? Mya New York, US
    Walcott-Rust Quarry about 455? Mya New York, US
    Soom Shale 450? Mya South Africa
    Wenlock Series ~425 Mya Herefordshire, England, UK
    Rhynie chert 400 Mya Scotland, UK
    Hunsrück Slates (Bundenbach) 390 Mya Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
    Gogo Formation 380 Mya (Frasnian) Western Australia
    Miguasha National Park 370 Mya Québec, Canada
    Canowindra, New South Wales 360 Mya Australia
    Bear Gulch Limestone 320 Mya Montana, US
    Joggins Fossil Cliffs 315 Mya Nova Scotia, Canada
    Linton Diamond Coal Mine[5] 312 Mya Ohio, US
    Mazon Creek 310 Mya Illinois, US
    Montceau-les-Mines[6][7] 300 Mya France
    Hamilton Quarry 300 Mya Kansas, US
    Mangrullo Formation[8] about 285–275 Mya (Artinskian) Uruguay
    Madygen Formation 230 Mya Kyrgyzstan
    Cow Branch Formation 230 Mya Virginia, US
    Ghost Ranch 205 Mya New Mexico, US
    Holzmaden/Posidonia Shale 180 Mya Württemberg, Germany
    Mesa Chelonia[9] 164.6 Mya Shanshan County, China
    La Voulte-sur-Rhône 160 Mya Ardèche, France
    Karabastau Formation 155.7 Mya Kazakhstan
    Solnhofen Limestone 145 Mya Bavaria, Germany
    Canjuers Limestone 145 Mya France
    Las Hoyas about 125 Mya (Barremian) Cuenca, Spain
    Yixian Formation about 125–121 Mya Liaoning, China
    Xiagou Formation about 120–115? Mya (mid-Apt.) Gansu, China
    Crato Formation about 117 Mya (Aptian) northeast Brazil
    Haqel/Hadjula/al-Nammoura about 95 Mya Lebanon
    Santana Formation 108–92 Mya Brazil
    Smoky Hill Chalk 87–82 Mya Kansas and Nebraska, US
    Ingersoll Shale 85 Mya Alabama, US
    Auca Mahuevo 80 Mya Patagonia, Argentina
    Zhucheng 66 Mya Shandong, China
    Tanis[1] 66 Mya North Dakota, US
    Fur Formation 55–53 Mya Fur, Denmark
    London Clay 54–48 Mya England, UK
    McAbee Fossil Beds 52.9 ± 0.83 Mya British Columbia, Canada
    Green River Formation 50 Mya Colorado/Utah/Wyoming, US
    Klondike Mountain Formation 49.4 ± .5 Mya Washington, US
    Monte Bolca 49 Mya Italy
    Messel Oil Shale 49 Mya Hessen, Germany
    Quercy Phosphorites Formation[10] 25–45 Mya South-Western France
    Dominican amber 30–10 Mya Dominican Republic
    Riversleigh 25–15 Mya Queensland, Australia
Foulden Maar 23 Mya Otago, New Zealand
    Clarkia fossil beds 20-17 Mya Idaho, US
    Barstow Formation 19–13.4 Mya California, US
    Ashfall Fossil Beds 11.83 Mya Nebraska, US
    Mammoth Site 26 Kya South Dakota, US
    Rancho La Brea Tar Pits 40–12 Kya California, US
    Waco Mammoth National Monument 65–51 Kya Texas, US
    El Breal de Orocual 2.5–1 Mya Monagas, Venezuela
    El Mene de Inciarte 25.5–28 Kya Zulia, Venezuela

See also


  1. ^ a b DePalma, Robert; et al. (2 April 2019). "A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota". PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1817407116.
  2. ^ The term was originally coined by Adolf Seilacher in: Seilacher, A. (1970). "Begriff und Bedeutung der Fossil-Lagerstätten: Neues Jahrbuch fur Geologie und Paläontologie". Monatshefte (in German). 1970: 34–39.
  3. ^ Briggs et al. 1983; Aldridge et al. 1993.
  4. ^ Retallack, G. J. (2011). "Exceptional fossil preservation during CO2 greenhouse crises?". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 307 (1–4): 59–74. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2011.04.023.
  6. ^ Garwood, Russell J.; Sharma, Prashant P.; Dunlop, Jason A.; Giribet, Gonzalo (2014). "A Paleozoic Stem Group to Mite Harvestmen Revealed through Integration of Phylogenetics and Development". Current Biology. 24 (9): 1017–23. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.039. PMID 24726154. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  7. ^ Perrier, V.; Charbonnier, S. (2014). "The Montceau-les-Mines Lagerstätte (Late Carboniferous, France)". Comptes Rendus Palevol. 13 (5): 353–67. doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2014.03.002.
  8. ^ Piñeiro, G.; Ramos, A.; Goso, C. S.; Scarabino, F.; Laurin, M. (2012). "Unusual Environmental Conditions Preserve a Permian Mesosaur-Bearing Konservat-Lagerstätte from Uruguay". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 57 (2): 299–318. doi:10.4202/app.2010.0113.
  9. ^ Wings, Oliver; Rabi, Márton; Schneider, Jörg W.; Schwermann, Leonie; Sun, Ge; Zhou, Chang-Fu; Joyce, Walter G. (2012), "An enormous Jurassic turtle bone bed from the Turpan Basin of Xinjiang, China", Naturwissenschaften, 114 (11): 925–35, doi:10.1007/s00114-012-0974-5, PMID 23086389
  10. ^ Lalloy, F.; Rage, J. C.; Evans, S.E.; Boistel, R.; Lenoir, N.; Laurin, M. (2013). "A re-interpretation of the Eocene anuran Thaumastosaurus based on microCT examination of a 'mummified' specimen". PLoS ONE. 8 (9): 1–11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074874. PMC 3783478. PMID 24086389.

Further reading

Aramus paludigrus

Aramus paludigrus is an extinct species of limpkin, semi-aquatic birds related to cranes (order Gruiformes), which are similar. Aramus paludigrus was found in the famous Konzentrat-Lagerstätte of the Honda Group at La Venta, dating from the mid-Miocene period, in central Colombia.


Archaeopriapulida is a group of priapulid-like worms known from Cambrian lagerstätte. The group is closely related to, and very similar to, the modern Priapulids. It is unclear whether it is mono- or polyphyletic. Despite a remarkable morphological similarity to their modern cousins, they fall outside of the priapulid crown group, which is not unambiguously represented in the fossil record until the Carboniferous. They are probably closely related or paraphyletic to the palaeoscolecids; the relationship between these basal worms is somewhat unresolved.


Eoscopus is an extinct genus of dissorophoidean euskelian temnospondyl in the family Micropholidae. It is known from Hamilton Quarry, a Late Carboniferous lagerstätte near Hamilton, Kansas.Members of Micropholidae were historically included in Amphibamidae, but Schoch (2019) recovered Amphibamidae as paraphyletic, necessitating resurrection of Micropholidae for Micropholis and closely related taxa.

Hamilton Quarry

Hamilton Quarry is a Late Carboniferous lagerstätte near Hamilton, Kansas, United States. It has a diverse assemblage of unusually well-preserved marine, euryhaline, freshwater, flying, and terrestrial fossils (invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants). This extraordinary mix of fossils suggests it was once an estuary. This type of Lagerstätte is considered a Konservat-Lagerstätte (or conservation lagerstätte), due to the quality the preservation of soft tissue (skin preservation).

The lagerstätte occurs within a paleovalley that was incised into the surrounding Carboniferous cyclothemic sequence during a time of low sea level and was then filled in during a subsequent transgression. The channel has a capping series of interbedded laminated limestones and mudstones for which are designated the Lagerstätte beds or ‘vertebrate horizon’. This facies contains a well-preserved mixed assemblage of terrestrial (conifers, insects, myriapods, reptiles), freshwater (ostracods), aquatic (amphibians, reptile), brackish or euryhaline (ostracods, eurypterids, microconchids, fish), and marine (brachiopods, echinoderms) fossils.


Harpacochampsa is a poorly known Early Miocene crocodilian from the Bullock Creek lagerstätte of the Northern Territory, Australia. The current specimen consists of a partial skull and fragments of a slender snout reminiscent of that of a false gharial. It is tentatively placed within Mekosuchinae, though some experts disagree with this, as H. camfieldensis would be the only known mekosuchine with a long, thin snout. Its long snout demonstrates that it was a piscivore in life.


Hoazinoides is an extinct genus of birds from the Middle Miocene (Laventan) from the "Monkey Beds" of the Villavieja Formation of the Honda Group at the Konzentrat-Lagerstätte of La Venta, Colombia.

Hunsrück Slate

The Hunsrück Slate (German: Hunsrück-Schiefer) is a Lower Devonian lithostratigraphic unit, a type of rock strata, in the German regions of the Hunsrück and Taunus. It is a lagerstätte famous for exceptional preservation of a highly diverse fossil fauna assemblage.

La Voulte-sur-Rhône

La Voulte-sur-Rhône is a commune in the Ardèche department in southern France.

La Voulte-sur-Rhône (lagerstätte)

The late Middle Jurassic lagerstätte at La Voulte-sur-Rhône, in the Ardèche region of southwestern France, offers paleontologists an outstanding view of an undisturbed paleoecosystem that was preserved in fine detail as organisms died at the site and settled to the bottom of a shallow epicontinental sea, with a folded floor that in places exceeded 200 m at this site. The site preserves a marine system of the Lower Callovian stage, a little over 160 mya. The sequence is exposed in a series of quarries at La Boissine, west of the village of La Voulte-sur-Rhône. Iron pyrites in the silty shale are symptoms of an anoxic environment. The site was recognized among French paleontologists from the mid-nineteenth century for its finely detailed fossils.


Madysaurus (Madygen reptile) is an extinct genus of cynodonts which existed in Kyrgyzstan. It was first named by Leonid Petrovich Tatarinov in 2005. Madysaurus is known from the Madygen Formation, a Triassic Lagerstätte that also includes well-preserved remains of insects and small reptiles like Sharovipteryx and Longisquama. Madysaurus is one of the most primitive cynodonts and is placed in its own family, Madysauridae.

Maotianshan Shales

The Maotianshan Shales are a series of Early Cambrian deposits in the Chiungchussu Formation, famous for their Konservat Lagerstätten, deposits known for the exceptional preservation of fossilized organisms or traces. The Maotianshan Shales form one of some forty Cambrian fossil locations worldwide exhibiting exquisite preservation of rarely preserved, non-mineralized soft tissue, comparable to the fossils of the Burgess Shale. They take their name from Maotianshan Hill (Chinese: 帽天山; pinyin: Màotiānshān) in Chengjiang County, Yunnan Province, China.

The most famous assemblage of organisms are referred to as the Chengjiang biota for the multiple scattered fossil sites in Chengjiang. The age of the Chengjiang Lagerstätte is locally termed Qiongzhusian, a stage correlated to the late Atdabanian Stage in Siberian sequences of the middle of the Early Cambrian.

The shales date to ≤518 million years ago. The shales also contain the slightly younger Guanshan biota from Malong District in Yunnan.

Mazon Creek fossil beds

The Mazon Creek fossil beds are a conservation lagerstätte found near Morris, in Grundy County, Illinois. The fossils are preserved in ironstone concretions, formed approximately 309 million years ago in the mid-Pennsylvanian epoch of the Carboniferous period. These concretions frequently preserve both hard and soft tissues of animal and plant materials, as well as many soft-bodied organisms that do not normally fossilize. The quality, quantity and diversity of fossils in the area, known since the mid-nineteenth century, make the Mazon Creek lagerstätte important to paleontologists, in attempting to reconstruct the paleoecology of the sites. The locality was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997.


Pallimnarchus is an extinct genus of mekosuchine crocodylians from the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Australia. Remains of this animal have been found in the Riversleigh lagerstätte of northwestern Queensland. It was a medium-sized crocodile, estimated to grow up to 5 metres in length. It had conical teeth with serrate carinae, and an extremely broad snout, features that probably allowed it to specialise in ambushing prey in shallow water.


Pelecanimimus (meaning "pelican mimic") is a genus of basal ("primitive") ornithomimosaurian theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Spain. It is notable for possessing more teeth than any other member of the Ornithomimosauria (or any other theropod), most of which were toothless.


The Pragian is one of three faunal stages in the Early Devonian epoch. It lasted from 411.2 ± 2.8 million years ago to 407 ± 2.8 million years ago. It was preceded by the Lochkovian stage and followed by the Emsian stage. The most important lagerstätte of the Pragian is Rhynie chert in Scotland. It is named after the city of Prague.In North America the Pragian Stage is represented by Siegenian or Deerparkian time.


Pseudophlegethontia is an extinct genus of aïstopod lepospondyl. It is the only member of the family Pseudophlegethontiidae. The only species is the type species P. turnbullorum, named in 2003. Fossils of Pseudophlegethontia have been found from the Mazon Creek fossil beds in Grundy County, Illinois, a conservation lagerstätte well known for the exceptional preservation of middle Pennsylvanian taxa.

Pseudophlegethontia has been considered to be morphologically intermediate between derived phlegethontiids and more basal "ophiderpetontids" such as Ophiderpeton. It possesses basal characters such as a relatively short body, "k shaped" ribs, and distinctive skull roof bones while also possessing several more derived features such as a pointed snout, thin gastralia, and a lack of dorsal osteoderms.

Sirius Passet

Sirius Passet is a Cambrian Lagerstätte in Greenland. The Sirius Passet Lagerstätte was named after the Sirius sledge patrol that operates in North Greenland. It comprises six places in Nansen Land, on the east shore of J.P. Koch Fjord in the far north of Greenland. It was discovered in 1984 by A. Higgins of the Geological Survey of Greenland. A preliminary account was published by Simon Conway Morris and others in 1987, but since then, expeditions led by J. S. Peel and Simon Conway Morris have returned to the site several times between 1989 and the present. A field collection of perhaps 10,000 fossil specimens has been amassed.

Smoky Hill Chalk

The Smoky Hill Chalk Member of the Niobrara Chalk formation is a Cretaceous conservation Lagerstätte, or fossil rich geological formation, known primarily for its exceptionally well-preserved marine reptiles. The Smoky Hill Chalk Member is the uppermost of the two structural units of the Niobrara Chalk. It is underlain by the Fort Hays Limestone Member; and the Pierre Shale overlies the Smoky Hill Chalk. The Smoky Hill Chalk outcrops in parts of northwest Kansas, its most famous localities for fossils, and in southeastern Nebraska. Large well-known fossils excavated from the Smoky Hill Chalk include marine reptiles such as plesiosaurs, large bony fish such as Xiphactinus, mosasaurs, flying reptiles or pterosaurs (namely Pteranodon), flightless marine birds such as Hesperornis, and turtles. Many of the most well-known specimens of the marine reptiles were collected by dinosaur hunter Charles H. Sternberg and his son George. The son collected a unique fossil of the giant bony fish Xiphactinus audax with the skeleton of another bony fish, Gillicus arcuatus inside the larger one. Another excellent skeleton of Xiphactinus audax was collected by Edward Drinker Cope during the late nineteenth century heyday of American paleontology and its Bone Wars.

Wenlock Series Lagerstätte

The Silurian Lagerstätte preserved in the limestone Wenlock Series of Herefordshire, England, offers paleontologists a rare snapshot of a moment in time, about 420 Mya. In the formation, layers of fine-grained volcanic ash punctuate a sequence of carbonate muds that were accumulating in a marine environment on the outer continental shelf. In this fine-grained matrix, soft-bodied animals and delicate, lightly sclerotized chitinous shells are often preserved in three dimensions, as calcitic fossilizations within calcareous nodules. Calcitic fossilization is an unusual feature.

The lagerstätte, discovered and first published in 1996, provides a wider representation of organisms than conventional fossilizations of shelly and bony elements. The Wenlock Series offers a diverse macrofauna that includes polychaete worms (Kenostrychus), sponges, graptolites, starfish, a chelicerate (Offacolus), a stem-group mandibulate (Aquilonifer) and a vermiform mollusc (Acaenoplax). On the microscopic scale the diverse microfauna includes abundant well-preserved radiolarians.

The delicate Wenlock fossils are difficult to separate from split sections, so Mark Sutton and his team have devised a method of serially grinding sections; from digital photographs three-dimensional "digital fossils" are reconstructed from datasets.


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