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German landslide-revealed fossils finally analysed after 170 year wait

Fossils revealed by a landslide in German during the construction of a canal 170 years ago have finally been analysed and the results published this week and reveal new details about the local ground conditions.

The Journal of the German Society for Geosciences has just published the results from samples of rock strata and fossils found during construction of the Ludwig-Danube-Main Canal in Bavaria 170 years ago. The channel incision that caused a landslip at Dörlbach, about 20km south-east of Nuremberg, was made during the construction of the canal between from 1836 to 1845.

Palaeontologists of the 19th century, and in particular Friedrich August Quenstedt, attempted to accurately document and date the finds with little success. In 2010 science finally caught up with the discovery and researchers from the universities of Göttingen, Erlangen and Tübingen and the Bavarian state office for the environment have dated the old marine deposits and the rich fossil fauna.

The finds - which included a 1.6m long skull of the ichthyosaur genus Temnodontosaurus, now preserved in Ansbach, Margrave Museum - have been dated from the Black Jura era, around 178 to 200M years ago.

The layers also suggest a new interpretation of the flow system in the north-west European Jurassic sea, as erosion submarine canyons are especially visible in the field of Ludwig canal, according to the scientists.

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