Prehistoric salamander: Freiberg palaeontologists discovered fossil during expedition 2009

Landscape around Madygen, Kyrgyzstan.
Two of our alumni are part of the research team that discovered the oldest prehistoric salamander in the world. Under the direction of the Natural History Museum Stuttgart, the scientists have now classified the fossil, which was found in Kyrgyzstan in 2009, as a missing link in the evolution.

"When we came across the fossil in a primeval lake near Madygen in the southwest of Kyrgyzstan on August 31, 2009, during a scientific excavation internship for Freiberg students under the supervision of the then post-doctoral researcher Dr. Sebastian Voigt, we thought it was a fish remnant," says Prof. Dr. Jörg W. Schneider from the Geological Institute of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg. "We could not have guessed that some eleven years later, significant findings about the evolution of amphibians could be derived from it," says the paleontologist. This is because the Ursalamander fossil with the scientific name Triassurus sixtelae from the middle period of the earth's history (Mesozoic) has characteristics of original amphibians in addition to salamander features. The researchers conclude that the evolution of salamanders began almost 50 million years earlier than previously assumed. The approximately 220 million year old find is therefore the oldest evidence of a salamander in the world.

Today, Dr. Sebastian Voigt is the director of the Geoscope Primeval World Museum at Lichtenberg Castle in Rhineland-Palatinate; the Freiberg graduate Dr. Ralf Werneburg, who recognized the importance of the find, is the director of the Natural History Museum at Bertholdsburg Castle Schleusingen, Thuringia, where the fossil was also prepared. Together with paleontologist Dr. Rainer Schoch from the Natural History Museum in Stuttgart, the two scientists have now published their results in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Fossil prehistoric salamanderDr. Sebastian Voigt and Dr. Ralf Werneburg continue to work closely with the TU Bergakademie Freiberg in research and teaching. For example, they supervise joint theses and dissertations at their alma mater or receive students for internships at their institutions.

Further information from the Natural History Museum Stuttgart.