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Gemunden, a small place int eh heart of the Rhineland slate-mountains, has recently become the site of interesting discoveries for scientists engaged in the study of prehistoric life: The stratified slate holds the fossilized remains of animals which lived more than three hundred and fifty million years ago; and it has preserved them in a state of perfection such as is found in only a few fossils in the world.
Professor Wilhelm Sturmer, a leading scientist in the Siemens research laboratories, has succeeded by means of especial application of X-rays in making these fossilized animals visible in every detail and thus in helping paleontologists to make new and important discoveries.
The layers of slate, which developed from mud deposits and were originally horizontal, wee long ago displaced by movements of the earth to such a degree that they now run vertically through the ridge like the pages of a book.
The slate-slabs have to be removed very carefully to avoid damaging the fossils, which can hardly be detected from the outside.
These two researchers seeking the ancestors of the modern animal world will not know whether they have made a find until they study the slate under the X-ray apparatus with which the small mobile laboratory is equipped.
The fossils detected on first examination at the site of excavation are recorded on an X-ray film in Processor Sturmer's laboratory in Erlangen and - like this brittle star - studied in every detail.
All that can be detected on this slab is the stalk of a sea-lily.
But the X-ray picture shows that below this broken-off stalk a complete sea-lily has been preserved: an animal which takes root in the ground like a plant and whose body resembles a flower.
This little crab is a lucky find, because its full organic structure can be seen under the microscope.
Never before was it possible to make the soft parts of a fossil so clearly visible.
One can see the horizontal intestinal tract...
The stomach and the pylorus ...
And one can also see the compound eyes with the thread-like light conductors leading to the brain.
On this slate slab the imprint of a three centimetre long crab-like "mimetaster" can be seen.
Here again the X-ray picture shows up extremely fine structures.
This small salamander originates from a younger oil shale rock.
The ball-and-socket joints of the two nine legs, the wrist bones and the finger joins are only the size of about one millimetre
This is an archaeopteryx, a primitive bird - the first feathered flying animal, of which only five specimens exist to date.
In the enlarged X-ray picture each individual vertebra can be seen.
This crab-like animal, of which only two specimens have been found so far, has not even been identified yet zoologically. But when has there ever been a discovery which did not simultaneously raise new questions?
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