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 formations, the Eocene Green River Formation, and the Miocene Foulden Maar.

Fossil fish from the Green River Formation, an Eocene Lagerstätte
Diplacanthus acus, an exceptionally well preserved acanthodian fish (10 cm long) from the Late Devonian Waterloo Farm lagerstätte in the Eastern Cape, South Africa


Palaeontologists distinguish two kinds:[1]

  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 the trackways Climactichnites 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.[2] 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.[3]

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

  • Orsten-type and Doushantuo-type preservations preserve organisms in phosphate.
  • Bitter Springs-type preservation preserves them in silica.
  • Carbonaceous films are the result of Burgess Shale-type preservation
  • Pyrite preserves exquisite detail in Beecher's trilobite-type preservation.
  • Ediacaran-type preservation preserves casts and moulds with the aid of microbial mats.

Important Konservat-Lagerstätten

The world's major Lagerstätten include:

    Bitter Springs1000–850 MyaSouth Australia
    Doushantuo Formation600–555 MyaGuizhou Province, China
    Mistaken Point565 MyaNewfoundland, Canada
    Ediacara Hills550–545? MyaSouth Australia
    Qingjiang biota518 MyaHubei province, China
    Sirius Passet518 MyaGreenland
    Maotianshan Shales (Chengjiang)515 MyaYunnan Province, China
    Emu Bay Shale513 MyaSouth Australia
    Kaili Formation513–501 MyaGuizhou province, south-west China
    Blackberry Hill~510–500 MyaCentral Wisconsin, US
    Burgess Shale508 MyaBritish Columbia, Canada
    Wheeler Shale (House Range)504 MyaWestern Utah, US
    Marjum Formation502 MyaWestern Utah, US
    Weeks Formation500 MyaWestern Utah, US
    Kinnekulle Orsten and Alum Shale500 MyaSweden
    Fezouata Formationabout 485 MyaDraa Valley, Morocco
    Douglas Dam Member460 MyaDouglas Dam, Tennessee
    Beecher's Trilobite Bed460? MyaNew York, US
    Walcott-Rust Quarryabout 455? MyaNew York, US
    Soom Shale450? MyaSouth Africa
    Waukesha Biota~435 MyaSoutheastern Wisconsin, US
    Wenlock Series~425 MyaHerefordshire, England, UK
    Rhynie chert400 MyaScotland, UK
    Hunsrück Slates (Bundenbach)390 MyaRheinland-Pfalz, Germany
    Gogo Formation380 Mya (Frasnian)Western Australia
    Miguasha National Park370 MyaQuébec, Canada
    Canowindra, New South Wales360 MyaAustralia
    Waterloo Farm lagerstätte360 MyaSouth Africa
    Bear Gulch Limestone320 MyaMontana, US
    Joggins Fossil Cliffs315 MyaNova Scotia, Canada
    Linton Diamond Coal Mine[4] 312 Mya Ohio, US
    Mazon Creek310 MyaIllinois, US
    Montceau-les-Mines[5][6]300 MyaFrance
    Hamilton Quarry300 MyaKansas, US
    Mangrullo Formation[7]about 285–275 Mya (Artinskian)Uruguay
    Madygen Formation230 MyaKyrgyzstan
    Cow Branch Formation230 MyaVirginia, US
    Ghost Ranch205 MyaNew Mexico, US
    Holzmaden/Posidonia Shale183 MyaWürttemberg, Germany
    Mesa Chelonia[8]164.6 MyaShanshan County, China
    La Voulte-sur-Rhône160 MyaArdèche, France
    Karabastau Formation155.7 MyaKazakhstan
    Tiaojishan Formation165-153 MyaLiaoning Province, China
    Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry150 MyaUtah, US
    Solnhofen Limestone145 MyaBavaria, Germany
    Canjuers Limestone145 MyaFrance
    Agardhfjellet Formation150-140 MyaSpitsbergen, Norway
    Las Hoyasabout 125 Mya (Barremian)Cuenca, Spain
    Yixian Formationabout 125–121 MyaLiaoning, China
    Xiagou Formationabout 120–115? Mya (mid-Apt.)Gansu, China
    Paja Formation130-113 MyaColombia
    Crato Formationabout 117 Mya (Aptian)northeast Brazil
    Haqel/Hjoula/al-Nammouraabout 95 MyaLebanon
    Santana Formation108–92 MyaBrazil
    Smoky Hill Chalk87–82 MyaKansas and Nebraska, US
    Ingersoll Shale85 MyaAlabama, US
    Auca Mahuevo80 MyaPatagonia, Argentina
    Zhucheng66 MyaShandong, China
    Tanis[9] 66 Mya North Dakota, US
    Fur Formation55–53 MyaFur, Denmark
    London Clay54–48 MyaEngland, UK
    McAbee Fossil Beds52.9 ± 0.83 MyaBritish Columbia, Canada
    Green River Formation50 MyaColorado/Utah/Wyoming, US
    Klondike Mountain Formation49.4 ± .5 MyaWashington, US
    Monte Bolca49 MyaItaly
    Messel Oil Shale49 MyaHessen, Germany
    Quercy Phosphorites Formation[10]25–45 MyaSouth-Western France
    Dominican amber30–10 MyaDominican Republic
    Riversleigh25–15 MyaQueensland, Australia
    Foulden Maar23 MyaOtago, New Zealand
    Chiapas amber23-15 MyaChiapas, Mexico[11]
    Clarkia fossil beds20-17 MyaIdaho, US
    Barstow Formation19–13.4 MyaCalifornia, US
    Shanwang Formation18-17 MyaShandong Province, China
    Ashfall Fossil Beds11.83 MyaNebraska, US
    Pisco Formation15-2 MyaArequipa & Ica, Peru
    The Mammoth Site26 KyaSouth Dakota, US
    Rancho La Brea Tar Pits40–12 KyaCalifornia, US
    Waco Mammoth National Monument65–51 KyaTexas, US
    El Breal de Orocual2.5–1 MyaMonagas, Venezuela
    El Mene de Inciarte25.5–28 KyaZulia, Venezuela

See also

  • List of fossil sites (with link directory)
  • Hoard, a concentration of human artifacts useful for similar reasons in archaeology


  1. 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.
  2. Briggs et al. 1983; Aldridge et al. 1993.
  3. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. DePalma, Robert; et al. (2 April 2019). "A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota". PNAS. 116 (17): 8190–8199. doi:10.1073/pnas.1817407116. PMC 6486721. PMID 30936306.
  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.
  11. Riquelme, Francisco; Hernández-Patricio, Miguel; Martínez-Dávalos, Arnulfo; et al. (2014). "Two Flat-Backed Polydesmidan Millipedes from the Miocene Chiapas-Amber Lagerstätte, Mexico". PLoS One. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105877.

Further reading

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