Otoliths

The term otoliths refers to the ear bones of fishes. These calcareous structures are a part of the stato-acustical organ of advanced fishes. This organ corresponds to the inner ear (labyrinth) and is responsible for the ability to hear and the equilibrium sense. Otoliths are usually only a few mm in length, since the calcareous material that forms these microfossils is well preservable it is possible to investigate them even after million of years. Each otolith has a characteristic shape and is typical for a certain species of fish. This is why fossils species or even whole faunas can be recognised without a single fish bone present.

otolithen1

The oldest known otoliths are those of palaeoniscid fishes from the Middle or even Lower Devonian, this means that they are about 380 million years old. Until the late Jurassic, about 145 million years ago, they occur only rarely. The otolith material of the Geosciences Collection is mainly between 65 and 2 million years old.

The otoliths of the Menzel collection
Herbert Menzel from Bremen, born in 1927, collected the otolith materialof the Geosciences Collection. He was working in the field of mechanical engineering, but in his spare-time he dealt with otoliths since 1968. At the beginning of his career dealing with microfossils was closely related to the limited space at his home, collecting megafossils would have been too space-consuming as a permanent hobby Dr. Thorwald Kruckow encouraged him to do research on otoliths and after a short while he became a recognised specialist for these fossils. He collected otoliths from Northern Germany, especially from the Oligocene and Miocene (5-34 million years ago), a part of his collection comes from the famous former Sunder clay pit in Twistringen, south of Bremen. In co-operation with the Niedersächsischen Landesamt für Bodenforschung (Institute for subsurface research of the state of Lower Saxony) he worked on many drilling holes in Lower Saxony. This work was based on fossil material for comparison from other parts of Germany as well as Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands. He also dealt particularly intensive with the otoliths of Turkey, that are Oligocene to Pleistocene in age. Material for comparison with modern fishes were provided for his collection by the Bundesforschungsanstalt für Fischerei in Bremerhafen (Federal Research Institute for Fishing in Bremerhafen).

Country/region Locality
Material from drilling cores
Age
Northern Germany, Lower Saxony
Achim Miocene
Ahausen
x
Miocene
Apensen
x
Miocene
Astrup Oligocene
Bevern
x
Miocene
Bornberg
x
Miocene
Bossel
x
Miocene
Bötersen
x
Miocene
Buschhörne
x
Miocene
Dersdorf
x
Miocene
Dollern
x
Miocene
Dreilingen
x
Oligocene-Miocene
Ellenbruch
x
Miocene
Engelbostel Hauterivian
Freetz near Sittensen Miocene
Gartow
x
Oligozän
Goldbeck
x
Miocene
Gräpel
x
Miocene
Hackmühlen
x
Miocene
Hamersen
x
Miocene
Harsefeld Miocene
Hassendorf near Rotenburg Miocene
Hellwege
x
Miocene
Horst
x
Miocene
Jesteburg Miocene
Karwitz
x
Oligocene
Kassebruch
x
Miocene
Kesselhofkamp
x
Miocene
Kuhla
x
Miocene
Linnewedel
x
Miocene
Lohfeld
x
Miocene
Lüneburg
x
Miocene
Luhner Holz
x
Miocene
Narthausen
x
Miocene
Nieder-Ochsenhausen
x
Miocene
Nindorf
x
Miocene
Nordlohne Miocene
Oerreller Moor
x
Miocene
Oldendorf
x
Miocene
Ostedt
x
Oligocene and Miocene
Pohlkotte Oligocene
Rhaden near Lamstedt Miocene
Rhadereistedt
x
Miocene
Scheeßel
x
Miocene
Secklendorf
x
Miocene
Secklingen
x
Miocene
Söllingen near Jerxheim Oligocene
Steinfeld
x
Miocene
Tarmstedt Miocene
Tegel
x
Miocene
Twistringen Miocene
Wangersen
x
Miocene
Wedehof
x
Miocene
Weyhausen
x
Oligocene
Wistedt
x
Miocene
Wittkoppenberg
x
Miocene
Wittkopsbostel
x
Miocene
Worth near Rotenburg
x
Miocene
Northern Germany, Northrhine-Westphalia
Dahlheim
x
Oligocene
Dingden – Berg
x
Miocene
Doberg near Bünde Oligocene
Hilden near Düsseldorf Oligocene
Matzerath Oligocene
Rheinberg Oligocene
Wachtendonk
x
Miocene
Northern Germany, Schleswig-Holstein
Groß Pampau Miocene
Langnklint Miocene
Pinneberg
x
Miocene
Tornesch
x
Miocene
Northern Germany, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Kobrow near Sternberg Oligocene
Malliß Oligocene
Pinnow Oligocene
Hessen, Southern Germany
Ahnetal Oligocene
Deute, Gudensberg Oligocene
Hallgarten Oligocene
Höllkopf near Glimmerode Oligocene
Kassel Oligocene
Niederkaufungen Oligocene
Oberkaufungen Oligocene
Weinheim Oligocene
Wöllstein Oligocene
Saarland, Southern Germany
Breitenheim Perm
Meisenheim Permian, Rotliegendes
Belgium
Balegem near Gent Eozän
Edegem Miocene
Egem Eozän
Heist op den Berg Miocene
Kallo Pliozän
Denmark
Gram Miocene
France
Blaincourt Eozän
Chateau Rouge Eozän
Damery Eozän
Fayel Eozän
Fercourt Eozän
Fleury la Riviere Eozän
Grignon Eozän
Saucats Miocene
Villiers St. Frederic Eozän
Italy
Campore, Salomaggiore Pliozän
Cutrofiano Pliozän
Cava Caudana Monteu Roero Pliozän
S.Agata Miocene
Netherlands
Miste near Winterswijk Miocene
Austria
Baden Tertiary, indeterminate
Gainfarn near Baden Miocene
Laa a. d. Thaya Miocene
Stetten, Teiritzberg Miocene
Teiritzberg near Korneuburg Miocene
Turkey
Deliilyas near Sivas Miocene
Fethiye near Mugla Pliocene
Kale near Denizli Miocene
Kalecik near Ankara Miocene
Kalikik near Ankara Miocene
Kangal Becken near Sivas Miocene
Kasaba Ebene near Antalya Miocene
Göynük near Bolu Pleistocene
Kale near Denizli Miocene
Kas near Antalya Miocene
Sabuncu near Kütahya Pliocene-Pleistocene
Samandagi near Hatay Tertiary, indeterminate
Saruhanli near Manisa Miocene
Selendi Becken near Manisa Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene
Sussurluk near Balikesir Miocene
Yerkesik Gebiet near Mugla Oligocene-Miocene

All of these different sources allowed Herbert Menzel to build up a unique collection for comparison that he donated to the Geosciences Collection in autumn 2002. The material is well-labelled and completely implemented in a data base. He published parts of his collection by himself in more than 30 publications on this topic.

References

  • Menzel, H. (1978): Otolithen und ihre Bedeutung in der Paläontologie. – Aufschluss 29: 89-92.
  • — (1979): Die Fischfauna aus dem Mittelmiozän von Twistringen. – Abhandlungen Naturwissenschaflicher Verein Bremen 39: 83-127.
  • — (1980): Die Fischfauna aus dem Oberoligozän von Astrup bei Osnabrück. – Abhandlungen Naturwissenschaflicher Verein Bremen 39: 263- 282.
  • Menzel, H. & Becker-Platen, J. D. (1981): Otolithen aus dem Tertiär der Türkei (Känozoikum und Braunkohlen der Türkei. – Geologisches Jahrbuch 42, 5 -91.
  • Menzel, H. (1982): Ein Vergleich fossiler mit rezenten Otolithen. – Aufschluss 33: 397-403.
  • — (1983): Die Otolithen einiger oligozäner Vorkommen vorwiegend aus dem Kasseler Meeressand (Oberoligozän). – Geologisches Jahrbuch Hessen 111: 5-45.
  • Menzel, H. & George, P. (1984): Untersuchung einer tertiären Scholle in einer Sandgrube bei Tarmstedt, nordöstlich von Bremen. – Abhandlungen Naturwissenschaflicher Verein Bremen 40: 137-154.
  • Menzel, H., George, P. & von Fick, C. C. (1984): Untersuchung des Profils der Tongrube Twistringen sw. Bremen (Mittelmiozän; Reinbek-Stufe). – Aufschluss 35: 137-150.
  • Menzel, H. (1985): Anormal gestaltete fossile Otolithen. – Aufschluss 36: 165-167.
  • — (1986): Otolithen aus dem Oligozän und Miozän von Nordwestdeutschland (zwischen Elbe-Weser-Aller). – Nordwestdeutschland im Tertiär, Teil 1. – (Beitr., Reg. Erde) 18: 446-502.- Bornträger, Berlin-Stuttgart.
  • — (1991): Revision der Fischfauna von Twistringen (Mittelmiozän, Bez. Bremen). – Aufschluss 42: 201-206.
  • — (1992): Ein Otolith der Familie Caproidae aus dem Miozän von Norddeutschland. – Aufschluss 43: 229-230.
  • Menzel, H., George, P. & Schick, H. (1994): Eine miozäne Scholle aus der Tongrube in Rhaden bei Lamstedt. – Aufschluss 45: 11-25.
  • Menzel, H. (1997): Die Tongrube der Ziegelei Sunder in Twistringen (Bez. Bremen). – Aufschluss 48: 16-20.
  • — (1997): Die Ziegeleitongrube Sunder in Twistringen-Typuslokalität miozäner Fossilien. – Aufschluss 48: 154-160.
  • — (2000): Fossile Otolithen der Ordnung Siluriformes Cuvier 1817 aus dem Tertiär von Nord- und Westdeutschland. – Aufschluss 51: 355-359.
  • — (2001): Otolithen der Gattung Coelorinchus (Fam. Macrouridae) aus dem Tertiär des Nordsee-Beckens. – Aufschluss 52: 187-191.