Both ammonites come from the Middle Jurassic of the Swabian Jura, but their shell shapes could hardly be more different: The diameter and width of the thick Teloceras are almost identical, the surface is heavily ribbed and it bears large knobs on its flanks. The Staufenia, on the other hand, is more reminiscent of a slender discus disk, has a razor-sharp keel and its shell is completely smooth.

All these features are adaptations to the specific habitat: the thick Teloceras would have been carried away by the first gentle current in the open sea – it lived close to the sea floor. The slender Staufenia, on the other hand, offered little resistance to the current and was able to move actively in higher water levels.

Dead ends of evolution

Ammonites are not always round: twice in the course of millions of years there were attempts to build a angular shell: in Morocco there are actually tiny ammonites that tried to build a rectangular shell 335 million years ago. And in China, around 10 million years later, even triangular ammonites appear! However, these soon return to their “normal” shape as they grow larger.

Neither experiment seems to have brought any great advantage to the animals and are not repeated in the course of the Earth’s history.


After almost 350 million years, the ammonites disappear from the earth forever – at the same time as the dinosaurs. The impact of a gigantic meteorite certainly had a decisive effect here, but their decline – as with the dinosaurs – had already begun several million years earlier as a result of changing environmental conditions.


The archipelago of the southern German Jurassic Sea was teeming with life over 150 million years ago.

Ammonites with a wide variety of shell shapes adapted to their environment swam through reefs and the open sea, but were also food for sharks and nimble squid.


Three times in the history of the earth, ammonites began to unroll their shells. In doing so, they took on the most diverse and sometimes crazy-looking shapes.

But what was the trigger that caused the shell shapes to change so bizarrely?

It is now known that there is a direct link between a rise in sea level and the appearance of such ammonites: every time such forms developed, the sea level was rising sharply.

A rise in sea level, as is happening today, considerably reduces the habitat on land. So in a few decades, we will no longer be able to go on vacation in the Maldives or ride our bikes in the Netherlands. However, sea creatures will be happy: their habitat will increase. Heteromorph ammonites seem to have loved precisely such shallow water areas. They developed countless shell forms adapted to the numerous newly created living areas and ecological niches.


As soon as you leave the French Mediterranean coast between Marseille and Nice, which is paved with hotels and residential complexes, it gets lonely. Barren, dry and hardly populated, Provence stretches all the way to the foot of the Alps. Due to the sparse vegetation, however, the rocks of the subsoil come to light again and again. These are often extremely fossiliferous sediments from the Cretaceous period – famous for their often large ammonites.

We owe the finds on display here to Luc Ebbo, who has been roaming through lonely valleys and over steep, barren mountain ridges on foot almost every day for decades, always on the lookout for new discovery opportunities and new, spectacular finds.

In the Pacific and Indian Oceans, a relative of the squid still lives today whose shell is very similar to that of the ammonite: the nautilus. It also has a spirally coiled and chambered shell.

For a long time, researchers therefore assumed that Ammonites and Nautiloids were very closely related. Recently, however, there has been increasing evidence that Nautilus is less closely linked to our ammonites than any other modern squid.

Although fossil nautiloids are generally rarer than ammonites, they also occur in almost all strata in which ammonites have been found. Unlike ammonites and dinosaurs, they survived the great extinction 66 million years ago.


“A portion of deep-fried ammonites, please!” If ammonites still existed today, humans would probably be their worst enemy. We could order ammonite rings instead of calamari at the Greek or Italian restaurant around the corner. It is quite possible that the ammonites tasted very similar to today’s squid – or perhaps even better?

At times, the biomass of ammonites in the oceans probably amounted to several hundred million tons, and it is clear that this delicacy attracted enemies. But who was after the ammonites and how can we know after such a long time?


Mom – I found a snail! Almost every child who has been lucky enough to discover a piece of a round ammonite on a walk with their parents has probably shouted this question with great enthusiasm. But can the parents give the right answer? In fact, very few adults know why an ammonite is not a snail.

  • The ammonite is an octopus and swims freely in the water – snails generally live on the ground!
  • To enable the ammonite to swim, its shell is divided into many chambers that it can fill with gas. As snails do not swim, they do not need such air chambers.
  • The “snail shell” spirals upwards, while the ammonite is usually rolled up in a planar shape.


Well-preserved ammonite shells have always fascinated the observer – especially when the shell was “decorated” with one or more rows of decorative knots. Often, however, these knots were originally topped with spines of varying lengths, which gave the shell a bizarre appearance and may have served to protect the animal from attackers.

Only in recent years, thanks to the refinement of preparation methods, has it been possible in individual cases to free these spines from the surrounding rock intact.

But who is willing and has the patience to sit in front of a microscope for 100 hours or more to work out these filigree structures one tenth of a millimeter at a time? One wrong move, a little too much pressure on the preparation needle and the spine is broken off and often irretrievably lost.

This means that spined ammonites such as those exhibited here are not only masterpieces of evolution, but also masterpieces of the art of fossil preparation.


In fact, there is no continent and hardly any country where ammonites have not been found. The prerequisite is precise knowledge of the formation conditions of the rocks in the respective subsoil. Naturally, no fossils can be found in igneous rocks from the depths of the earth or in solidified lava from volcanoes. Only the so-called sedimentary rocks potentially contain ammonites.

But even here, a find is not certain: firstly, the rock must have been deposited in the sea – because that is the only place where ammonites have lived – and secondly, the physical and chemical conditions in the mud of the seabed, into which the animals’ shells have sunk, must have allowed them to be preserved for millions of years.

Another prerequisite for a successful search is that the subsurface rocks are not covered by soil and vegetation. In our latitudes, we therefore generally have to rely on quarries, excavation pits or natural outcrops such as deeply incised streams. Cliffs, e.g. in England or northern France, also offer excellent conditions for a successful search.


Much like today’s nautilus, the ammonite inhabited a spirally coiled shell, in the foremost part of which the animal lived. Fine growth lines indicate that the ammonite enlarged its shell a little every day. Approximately once a month, the animal slipped forward a little and inserted a new chamber septum towards the back. This newly created, water-filled chamber was then first pumped empty and then filled with water or body fluid as a buoyancy weight as required. If more water was pumped into the chamber, the shell became heavier and the ammonite sank to the bottom. If less liquid was used, the housing became lighter and the ammonite floated up into higher water layers.

In order to be able to fill the individual sections of the chambered part of the housing with gas or liquid accordingly, the chambers were connected to each other via a siphuncle.


For several years now, around 20 predominantly young men have been permanently digging into the ridges of the High Atlas Mountains, sometimes under adventurous conditions. The fantastic ammonites from here are now represented in collections around the world.

If the diggers – often former shepherds – manage to make a good find, the piece has to be transported down into the valley for almost two hours on the back of a donkey through rough terrain. In order to reduce the weight, it was therefore common practice to chip away as much of the surrounding rock as possible. The ammonites are often embedded in picturesque limestone nodules, which turn the whole piece into a unique work of art and are very similar to the famous sandstone formations from France, the so-called Gogottes.


What could be better for a fossil enthusiast than searching for rock nodules on the seashore between the steep cliffs and the roaring waves, opening them with a single, well-aimed hammer blow and then being the first person to see a beautifully preserved fossil in almost 180 million years?

Lyme Regis and Charmouth are the most famous coastal towns in England for all fossil hunters. More than 200 years ago, Mary Anning was the first professional fossil collector to collect ammonites and other fossils to sell them to the often aristocratic interested parties and scientists.

After major storms and heavy seas, huge sections of the cliffs repeatedly break off into the sea, where the fossils are then washed free. This is how important finds are still made today!


The chambers of the ammonite case are separated from each other by walls. However, these partitions are not simply straight, but increasingly branched towards the outside. Where they meet the outer wall of the ammonite, they are often bizarrely branched.

If the shell of the fossil ammonite is removed, this so-called suture line, which traces the contact of the chamber septum with the outer shell, is clearly visible.

Many of the most beautiful ammonite finds are characterised by this magnificent pattern. They are among the most sought-after collector’s and decorative objects of all.


Males and females are known to differ in their sexual organs. However, because such soft parts decompose quickly, males and females can only be recognized by differences in the shell.

Scientists have repeatedly observed that two completely different-looking ammonite species are found in exactly the same layer – and only there! This means that the two must have lived exclusively at the same time.

They appeared together and died out together. It was also striking that one specimen of this pair was always small and its shell had a beak-like extension at the mouth. The other specimen, on the other hand, was often many times larger and did not have this beak.

At some point, the scientists suddenly realized: These had to be males and females of the same species. Previously, these two different shells had been regarded as two different species of ammonite, which had also been given two different names. This was now just as absurd as referring to a woman and a man as two different species of human!


Ammonites are extinct relatives of squid. Like today’s octopus, they had tentacles, a large eye and a body from which the animal could expel water in order to move backwards in a jerky motion.

The first ammonites are found in rocks that were deposited in the sea 400 million years ago.

They then dominated life in the world’s oceans for an unimaginable 360 million years.

However, their era came to an end 66 million years ago: at exactly the same time as the dinosaurs became extinct after a huge meteorite impact, the last ammonite also disappeared.


Hardly any other site in the world has yielded more aesthetically pleasing ammonites than the Courcelles clay pit near Troyes, a good 100 km south-east of Paris. However, there is also a certain tragedy associated with this site.

The Courcelles clay pit was already in operation in the 19th century and its finds attracted scientists from all over France. However, the ammonites lie firmly caked in often head-sized, gray limestone nodules. These nodules were found in large quantities when the mine was in operation. However, the preparation of the enclosed ammonites was only possible with a fine needle and was extremely time-consuming – and even then not always entirely satisfactory. In short: there were plenty of ammonites, but it was almost impossible to prepare them. Mining ceased in 1984 and after a few years the bottom of the pit sank beneath the surface of an expanding lake. In the meantime, a new method of preparation was discovered by fossil collectors: the use of ultra-fine sandblasting equipment, using soft, fine iron powder rather than hard sand as the abrasive. Suddenly, the ammonites from Courcelles could be removed from the rock in a much shorter time and down to the finest details – but now there were hardly any unprepared specimens and new finds were no longer possible.

The specimens exhibited here come from the unprepared stock of a now very elderly French collector who – thank God – had stored the nodules untouched in his cellar for decades and recently gave them to us for the now perfected preparation. A real stroke of luck!


While almost all ammonites from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods are closely related to each other, the Lytoceratids form a separate group that split off a good 200 million years ago. Their shape and suture lines are very characteristic and have hardly changed over the course of millions of years. Their size, on the other hand, varies enormously!

Lytoceras inhabited the open sea, could swim relatively well and quickly and fed predatorily on other marine animals.


A good 30 years ago, nobody knew what treasures would soon come to light in Madagascar. However, when the German seafarer, adventurer and fossil dealer Hans Porombka brought the first, sensationally preserved ammonites back to Europe, a veritable run on the finds soon set in and in the country itself, the excavation and preparation of ammonites developed into an essential source of income for some places.

The legal situation in Madagascar is a curiosity: the export of fossils is prohibited. However, if the piece has been prepared, even if only minimally in a small area, it is no longer a fossil but an artisanal product and is therefore completely legal to leave the country!


Only under special geological circumstances is it possible for the original mother-of-pearl shell of an ammonite to be preserved. In the layers found in Alberta, Canada, mineral solutions also penetrated the mother-of-pearl, excreting elements such as iron and magnesium in the small cavities within the layers of nacre and giving the ammonite its unique iridescent appearance. Today, this ammonite mother-of-pearl is extracted as an expensive gemstone in open-cast mines and sold to jewelers worldwide for a lot of money under the name ammolite. Fully preserved ammonites are only the rare by-product – but are no less coveted and valued by collectors and museums!


When we talk about the Jurassic or Cretaceous periods, everyone thinks of the fascinating world of dinosaurs. But while the dinosaurs dominated the land, another group of animals dominated the seas: the ammonites. For over 350 million years – twice as long as the dinosaurs – they shaped life on our planet. The number of species that evolution has produced is enormous: while we only know about 700 species of dinosaurs, the number of different ammonites exceeds 10,000.

And the diversity of their shells, which we find today as fossils, is just as enormous. And they can be found almost everywhere where there was once a sea – be it here on our doorstep or at one of the countless sites found around the world on all 7 continents.

The transition between art and nature appears to be fluid – one could be forgiven for thinking that evolution has shaped many of these enclosures in this way purely for the joy of beauty. And time also stands still – who can comprehend what a hundred, two hundred, three hundred million years means? And what do we ourselves mean in the face of this overwhelming achievement of nature?

Masterpieces of Ammonites is a unique exhibition that makes over 120 of the most spectacular, beautiful and diverse finds of this famous group of animals accessible to the public for the first time.


The three small ammonites seem to have been caught between the long spines of the large Eoderoceras as if in the teeth of a rake. Even the wonderfully preserved Uptonia, which lies directly above it, was not taken up by the current and washed away thanks to the crown of spines.


Heavily armed and equipped with a mighty shield, the warriors of ancient Greece – the Hoplites – went to war. With their extremely strong ribs, the shell of our ammonite must also have been difficult to crack, hence its scientific name Hoplites.


This double specimen of two Lytocerates from the Lower Jurassic can hardly be surpassed in beauty. The wafer-thin calcite collars appear translucent in the light and give the ammonites an almost unearthly appearance.


The larger the shell and thus the tasty body of the ammonite became, the larger and more powerful its enemies also became.

The larger the shell, the stronger its ring-shaped ridges. If the ammonite was attacked by a crab, for example, it retreated deep into its shell and had to hope that it would resist the attacker’s attempts to crack open the shell of the living chamber.


This specimen was sawn open median and shows very nicely the central position of the siphuncle – a significant difference to the ammonites. In the latter, the siphuncle is always located on the outside of the shell.


In all directions and up and down – this craziest of all ammonites keeps changing its direction of growth. At some point, it takes on a shape that looks more like a ball of wool than what you would expect from an ammonite.

Close to the Nipponites are three other heteromorphic ammonites of the genus Scalarites as well as numerous shells and ammonite fragments.


Unique specimen with 5 heteromorph ammonites of the genus Ainoceras. These first turn upwards like a corkscrew, then suddenly make a large arc around the previous shell at a 90 degree angle.


Like this mammites from Morocco, ammonites are often damaged in a characteristic way. If you take a closer look at the damage, you will notice that it is usually located right at the end of the living chamber. Scientists suspect that “normal” squid attacked the ammonites from behind, held them with their tentacles and then bit a hole in the hard shell with their sharp, pointed jaws. They then pulled the animal out of its protective shell through this hole and ate it.


The diameter of this bizarre ammonite shell increases only slightly from turn to turn.


During the Upper Jurassic period, there lived a pair of ammonites whose bizarre appearance could hardly be surpassed. The much smaller male is usually barely a centimeter tall and has a keel studded with spikes, giving it an almost warlike appearance. The corresponding female is about five times the size and is almost unsurpassed in elegance. Its keel is gently curved in soft waves – hence the name “Wave Horn”.


It does not have the long spines of its close relative Douvilleiceras orbigniy, which is exhibited in the adjacent display case, but it does have wonderfully regularly arranged rows of nodes running closely together across its flanks.


It would certainly be worthwhile to prepare both sides of this wonderfully preserved ammonite with its shell. The long spines on the back are already clearly visible on the edge.


“Japan’s miraculous stone” – this is the translation of the name given to this most peculiar of all ammonites by the Japanese scientist Yabe in 1904. Winding in U-shaped arcs and constantly changing direction, it forms a tangle-like structure. It is still unclear what advantage this shape of shell gave the animal. However, it is certain that this ammonite must have fed primarily on plankton – the clumsy fellow certainly could not have been a fast predator.


The two ammonites, which are so different, are actually male and female.

The small male has such an extremely protruding mouth that it is difficult to imagine how the tentacles could have fitted through the narrow crevices of the opening. Or did the animal only have thin, thread-like tentacles?

The living chamber and the mouth of the larger female, on the other hand, is spacious and leaves enough room for the large number of eggs typical of ammonites.


In the vernacular, nodules of the mineral pyrite are often referred to as fool’s gold.

Reichenbach near Aalen is a famous site where ammonites have been found embedded in such shiny golden pyrite nodules.

However, the beauty of the finds led to deep trenches being dug into the mountainside there – and one morning the whole slope started to slide and buried the road passing by. Since then, any search for fossils has been strictly forbidden here.


After sinking to the seabed, no mud got into the empty chambers of this specimen. Thanks to this fortunate circumstance, various minerals were later able to crystallize in the cavities of the casing: Calcite, Siderite and Goethite now decorate the individual air chambers.


The dark shell of this small ammonite is filled with black rock. But why do the light-colored tips of the spines appear translucent in the light? Although the spines of the ammonites were also hollow, they were separated from the inside of the shell by a membrane. If a spine broke off during the animal’s lifetime, no water could enter the shell. Conversely, the marine mud that was washed into the chambers after the animal’s death could not get into the spines that remained intact.


This must inevitably be an adult specimen of this rare ammonite species: if the shell had grown even one centimeter further, the back part of the ammonite would have blocked the opening from which the animal was looking out!


An ammonite could hardly be more perfectly prepared or more perfectly preserved. It is hard to imagine that the limestone nodule inside which it was concealed simply “lay around” unprotected on the earth’s surface for centuries, unnoticed and exposed to the weather.


The slender body of this Hyphantocera twists like a corkscrew. Ammonites of this species have spread worldwide and have also been discovered in relatively large numbers in Germany in the Halle area of Westphalia.


Why an ammonite first builds its shell “normally” and inconspicuously in a planar spiral, but then suddenly changes direction completely and turns in the opposite direction – even science can only speculate.


Typical of the famous locality near Unterstürmig were gray-blue nodules in the clay, which could often be opened with a single blow of the hammer and the finished ammonite was already in the hand.

On the front left is a specimen with severe pathology.


Although the genus Schlotheimia was known to geologists a long time ago, it was not yet possible to prepare such a specimen from its extremely hard rock. So, for example, no one knew until now that the thin ribs overhang slightly forwards, i.e. have the shape of an overturning wave.


Like the specimen in the adjacent display case, this unusual ammonite belongs to the genus Didymoceras. However, it differs in a number of details and is therefore assigned to another, closely related species.

It is quite obvious that with this shape of shell, rapid horizontal movement was out of the question! However, both Didymoceras were probably able to move vertically up and down in the water column by partially flooding and emptying their air chambers.


An ammonite could hardly build a more bizarre housing: first it curves upwards, then back and to the side, then spirals downwards in three turns and then turns 90 degrees and heads straight downwards – only to turn around again and grow back towards the starting point.


At first glance, it looks more like a bowling ball than an ammonite: the diameter and thickness of the shell are almost identical! Interestingly, these spherical shells are practically always completely preserved and, unlike other disc-shaped species from this locality, show hardly any damage caused by bites from large fish and marine reptiles. However, frequent regenerated shell injuries on the mouth rim indicate attacks by crabs. This suggests that ammonites with such less streamlined shells generally lived directly on the sea floor.


These are the most common ammonites in Goulmima. Hopefully in the future more specimens will be recovered as Gogottomonites among the bizarre white nodules.


With its double row of knots on the outer flank and its warm, brownish coloration of the shell, Microderoceras is not only one of the most sought-after ammonites that the sea occasionally washes out of the southern English cliffs, but also one of the most decorative.


The thin shell tube of the heteromorph ammonite on the right makes an extremely fragile impression. How might this animal have lived? It is conceivable that the filigree, lightweight shell was hooked onto seagrass mats that floated on the sea surface.

Next to it is a “normal” ammonite, coiled up in a spiral, as found especially in the layers of the Jurassic period.


This is an extremely rare species that has only been found in a few specimens in Australia.


A number of smaller ammonites had accumulated on the seabed in the shadow of the large ammonite. Like the tail of a comet, they lie behind the fantastically preserved large specimen.

This find from 1982 is probably unique among the thousands and thousands of ammonites that have been excavated in Unterstürmig.


Classic heteromorphic ammonite from the famous site near Ulyanovsk in Russia.

The different colorations of the ammonite are caused by various minerals that have become embedded in the mother-of-pearl of the shell. However, this only happened long after the death of the animal and does not represent the original color of the ammonite.


It is only thanks to the excellent preparation that slight but important differences between the two specimens can be recognized. The specimen on the right is probably even a species previously unknown to science!


Now it’s getting difficult again! Why is this an ammonite and not a snail? In fact, the shape of this shell gives no clue as to which animal lived here around 100 million years ago.

The mystery could only be solved by finding more specimens with broken shells. Snails have a continuous shell tube, while the rear part of ammonites is segmented by chamber partitions.


The massive ammonite is beautifully enthroned in the middle of the rock concretion.


A disc-shaped body with little resistance to the current enables fast swimming and maneuvering. It can therefore be assumed that Choffaticeras preferred to stay in higher water layers. Frequent, characteristic bite wounds caused by hunting fish and fast-swimming squid are striking – a further indication of the open habitat of these ammonites.


It often happens that the original shell of the ammonite either dissolves over time or is lost when the fossil is recovered. In both cases, an inner cast of the shell remains as a fossil and is referred to as a “stone core”.

In the case of this Lytoceras, the shell was deliberately removed by the taxidermist in order to reveal the wonderful suture lines.


In this specimen, the shell of the ammonite is preserved with its shell. The surface shows the typical Lytoceras net-like sculpture of the shell surface, which has been removed from the stone core in the adjacent display case.


Among the largest and most impressive finds of heteromorphic ammonites are specimens of the genus Emericiceras, as found in the remote and often difficult to access sites in Provence.


Small ammonite – fine tool, large ammonite – coarse tool: unfortunately, countless, actually excellent finds have fallen victim to this widespread motto.

One of the pioneers in the field of modern preparation is Jürgen Geppert. It is thanks to him that the inner coils of this giant ammonite were not roughly hammered out and damaged in the process, as is usually the case. Using the finest special tools and a microscope, he succeeded in perfectly removing the very hard rock, rib by rib, as well as the adhering shell.

At 80 cm in diameter, this giant ammonite is one of the largest finds ever made in the Jurassic period in Germany.


Looking into the mouth of the shell of this species of Lytoceras, it is easy to see how the chamber septum exposed by the preparator continues to branch outwards.

The body of the fossil was not painted over with thick varnish, as one might think, but is covered with a natural, transparent layer of the mineral Calcite.


Fossiliferous layers from the Upper Jurassic period can be found in many places in Europe, North Africa and Asia. However, ammonites of this age in the size and quality found in Madagascar are unique. While elsewhere the shell of the ammonites is often detached and only the stone core can be found, the specimens here still bear their thick original shell.


For decades – perhaps even centuries – this hard limestone ball lay weathered out on the ground in the endless solitude of Queensland in the north of Australia. But even when the discoverer cracked it open with his hammer, only small cross-sections of ammonites were visible. Fortunately, the finder recovered even the smallest fragments of this calcareous concretion and took the whole thing to his preparation studio in France. However, the treasure he had discovered turned out to be a painstaking, nerve-wracking task. Seven ammonites of a species that had never been found before!

Interestingly, they are probably from two generations: Three of the ammonites are significantly larger than the remaining four. How should this be interpreted? We assume that two generations of ammonites were attached with their curled ends to a ball of seaweed floating on the surface of the water. At some point, the seaweed may have sunk to the seabed, dragging the ammonites into the depths and thus to their deaths. Chemical reactions between the lime dissolved in the seawater and the decaying soft parts of the ammonites and the seaweed formed a calcareous nodule around the ammonites – the structure that lay apparently worthless on the bottom over 70 million years later.

The preparation of this piece is also a unique masterpiece: the artist was able to preserve the entire outside of the stone and only hollowed out the inside in such a way that all the ammonites are now hidden in the nodule’s cavity as if under a bell.


This is an impressive specimen of what is probably the largest heteromorphic ammonite species in England. The change in sculpture is remarkable: while the body of the young animal is still finely ribbed, the adult specimen has massive, high ridges running across the coils.


As if asleep, these ammonites lie deeply embedded in their rock nodules, which have encased them protectively for 195 million years. When the finder discovered these inconspicuous stones, washed free by the surf of the sea, only a small indentation on the back of the nodule revealed something of the treasures hidden within.


The shell of Nautilus has hardly changed over hundreds of millions of years. The smaller, more recent shell comes from the Pacific Ocean, the fossil shell from the 170-million-year-old rock layers near Basel in Switzerland. However, before it was embedded in the sediment, it probably lay on the seabed for a long time and was colonized by worms and oysters.


You barely have to dig half a meter deep into the soil to get to the famous ammonites of Schlaifhausen. For decades, collectors and dealers dug tons of the chunks out of the ground there, which consisted almost exclusively of ammonites of the genus Dactylioceras.

Although the classic site has now been practically exploited, it is quite possible that other similar sites will be discovered in the future.


If no living chamber is preserved, the preparator can expose the last, foremost chamber septum with great effort and skill. While this is almost smooth in the inner, central area, it becomes more and more branched in all directions towards the outside and almost looks like a sculpture created by an artist’s hand.


After its death, an ammonite shell usually soon sank to the soft seabed. The shell was a welcome place for oysters and tubeworms to settle and they densely overgrew the shell. Only in a few tiny places do the ribs of the ammonite still peek out and reveal that there is a stately specimen of the genus Caenisites under this appetizing “seafood plate”.


This piece is also one of the most spectacular finds ever made on the Walsh River. All three ammonites are perfectly preserved.


Long before the Loire flows past the famous castles of Versailles, it cuts through layers of rock that are famous for their fantastically preserved Lytocerats. However, local collectors do not dig holes in the ground here, but have to dive deep down to the bottom of the river on warm days to get to the coveted nodules with their fossils.

This large lytoceras with its typical net-like shell structure is one of the best-preserved finds from this famous site. Its striking collars, which extend over the coils, were probably used to stabilize the shell.


This ammonite is one of the extremely rare and exciting finds where we can still clearly see which predator caused the ammonite’s death: a large mosasaur has firmly gripped it with its powerful jaws. The position of the holes in the shell correspond exactly to the position of the attacker’s teeth!


278 kg of pure ammonite! And a diameter of 110 cm! The Giant of Sakaraha is one of the largest specimens of Lytoceras in the world, and probably the largest to be found in Madagascar to date. It was discovered in 2022 by local ammonite diggers in the northwest of the country at a depth of 7 meters below the earth’s surface. It could only be brought to light in several pieces and with the help of the entire village population.


As tiny as they may appear in comparison to the giants from Madagascar, these small specimens of Lytoceras are actually fully grown animals. Obviously the food supply in Madagascar was much richer than in the area where they were found in Germany!


Even after the death of this ammonite, the chambers remained hollow. It was only later that the white mineral calcite was deposited in these cavities and filled them completely.

The branched chamber partitions, on the other hand, were darkened by other minerals and now stand out beautifully in color from the light chambers.


The dark lines of the partitions between the chambers of the case create a unique pattern on the surface of the almost snow-white ammonite.

In addition, the contrast between the dark rock slab, colored red-brown by iron, and the light ammonite could hardly be more intense.


Both ammonites still have their original mother-of-pearl shells. However, the color does not originate from their lifetime. It was caused later, after the death of the animal and its embedding in the sediment by minerals. The distinction between male and female can only be recognized by specialists.


Whereas in Eparietites from England black suture lines stand out on a white background, here it is exactly the opposite: the chambers of this giant Placenticeras are filled with black sediment, while the chamber partitions are made of light-colored mother-of-pearl. In both cases, it is fascinating to see what a wonderfully delicate work of art nature has created here. The beauty of all this can hardly be surpassed by human imagination and skill.


Rarely can a collector claim to have made the ONE find of his life after decades of intense collecting. Not so in this case: the female specimen of the ammonite Stephanoceras towers large in the foreground – diagonally behind it is the associated, much smaller male with the typical extensions of its shell mouth. But that’s not all: directly behind the ammonites is a specimen of the coveted giant Belemnite Megatheuthis – a close relative of the ammonites. The two mussels, which lived buried in the mud at that time, round off this snapshot from the Jurassic period perfectly!


Lifting up chunks of stone – inspecting them all around – throwing them away. Stefan has been digging through the rubble from the last blast in the quarry for hours. Every now and then he makes a pretty good find – not a bad day. Suddenly – the hand with the piece of rock is already reaching out to throw it over his shoulder – his breath is taken away: a broad ammonite ridge runs sideways across the rock! But that’s not all: two spines, still firmly attached to the rock, are clearly sticking up from the ammonite. The extremely experienced finder reacts immediately: “Stop – where is the adjacent piece of rock? – The tips of the spines should still be there! And he knows: this is perhaps the best find of his life – and probably the most spectacular ammonite ever found in Bavaria!

But then he takes his time. After weeks of unimaginably concentrated work in front of the microscope, he extracts the unique find from the rock. Apart from two spines, everything is there – the ammonite is perfectly preserved right down to the innermost coil.


When these ammonites with their thin and overlong spines sank to the sea floor after death, there must have been a soft, fine mud there into which the shells immediately sank and where the spines were secured from breaking off. This mud must also have solidified quickly around the ammonites, so that the pressure of further sediment deposited over the ammonites could no longer crush the shells.

185 million years later, however, it took over 150 hours of highly concentrated work and the use of state-of-the-art preparation techniques to free these four ammonites, perfectly preserved with their spines, from the hard rock under the microscope.But then he takes his time. After weeks of unimaginably concentrated work in front of the microscope, he extracts the unique find from the rock. Apart from two spines, everything is there – the ammonite is perfectly preserved right down to the innermost coil.


When the German collector Fred Neubauer drove past the village of Evrecy in Calvados in the north of France in June 2010, he noticed a freshly excavated pit next to the road.

Fred climbed down and turned over the first chunks of rock – and there he was looking at one of the most beautiful ammonites ever discovered in northern France. One side still stuck in the rock turned out to be almost flawless with all its bizarre spines and narrow ribs. And as if to make the luck perfect, even the massive mouth rim of the ammonite, i.e. the front edge of the living chamber, is undamaged.185 million years later, however, it took over 150 hours of highly concentrated work and the use of state-of-the-art preparation techniques to free these four ammonites, perfectly preserved with their spines, from the hard rock under the microscope.But then he takes his time. After weeks of unimaginably concentrated work in front of the microscope, he extracts the unique find from the rock. Apart from two spines, everything is there – the ammonite is perfectly preserved right down to the innermost coil.


24 young ammonites on their journey across the Styx into the underworld – this bizarre piece may almost remind you of Greek mythology.

The shells of 24 very young ammonites are packed tightly together in this elongated concretion. Strangely enough, they are all about the same size and shape, but belong to two different genera. Why did they all die so early? And why were they then embedded so close together in the mud of the sea? Will we ever be able to answer these questions after more than 100 million years?


For 125 million years, this ammonite was encased in the darkness of a hard limestone nodule. Instead of freeing the fossil completely from its context and destroying the surrounding rock in the process, the preparator managed to preserve the nodule in such a way that the ammonite can be removed and admired from all sides, but can also be put back into its usual bed at any time. An almost extraterrestrial beauty!

As it grows, the shell itself changes direction in a bizarre way, so that the initial coils now appear to run towards the observer.


The famous French palaeontologist Alcide d’Orbigny would never have dreamed what the small, ugly ammonite he first described scientifically in 1842 actually looked like! There was only a gray, slightly weathered stone core, an ammonite without its shell, on the table in his study room. Three rows of small knots were already slightly visible. But such downward-curved spines, made of shining mother-of-pearl, would certainly have exceeded the professor’s wildest fantasies.

Almost 180 years later, however, a collector made this unique sensational find, which gives us an idea of what discoveries and advances in science may still lie ahead!

However, the place where this ammonite was found has so far been a well-kept secret of the discoverer. And for good reason!


If you look at the bizarre shapes of today’s reef dwellers, you will notice that spiny individuals are often brightly colored. Danger beware! Stay away from me! I am spiny!

But what color might this extremely unpleasantly spiny ammonite have been?

We don’t know. But let’s try to imagine this spiny monster floating above the seabed in the brightest of colors.

This idea is not entirely unrealistic, on the contrary. What a sight such a colorful spiny ammonite must have been! Or was the ammonite simply gray? Or did it have camouflage colors adapted to its habitat? Was it able to adapt its color patterns to its surroundings at lightning speed, as some of today’s squid are still able to do? This can be ruled out, however, as the ammonite did not have a soft body with a blood supply that would have surrounded the outside of the shell.


Never before has an Australiceras jackii with such a diameter been discovered! At 24 cm, it is the largest of its kind. But that’s not the only thing that makes this piece special: the very first chamber of the ammonite – nothing but a tiny, slightly thickened spot at the beginning, i.e. in the innermost part of the shell – is also preserved. If the preparator’s hand had trembled even once, this infinitely fragile structure would have been lost.


Hard to see from the outside: a layer full of small ammonites runs through this rock. Their living chambers are filled with dark sediment. The chambered part of their shells, however, consists mainly of crystals of the mineral calcite. In the light of the lamp, the light penetrates through the calcite and the ammonites from behind – a truly magical moment!


The light refracts wonderfully on the mother-of-pearl layer of the ammonite in a wide variety of colors depending on the angle of incidence. The small ammonite, which was half washed into the opening of the living chamber of the large Cleoniceras, still has the excellently preserved mother-of-pearl shell.


Where there is one, there are often several – this wisdom sometimes has great significance for the collector: Why is a shell deposited in this particular place? Whatever the reason may be – often it is the current or an obstacle on the seabed – the probability that there is more than just one specimen at this location is comparatively high. The cautious, experienced collector will therefore always look carefully when finding an ammonite to see if there is another treasure hidden in the rock behind it.

During the recovery of this piece, the rock with the fossils it contained broke into countless pieces and splinters. Nevertheless, it took many, many hours to meticulously reassemble all the pieces. Unfortunately, only about 60% of the broken spines could be prepared – the others were either left out or replaced. Nevertheless, the specimen is one of the most beautiful that has ever come to light in Provence.


This slab is one of the most spectacular finds made by professional fossil hunter Chris Moore and his son Alex on the Lyme Regis cliffs in southern England.

The two Ammonites and two Nautiloids lie in their original rock formation. Not a single splinter is missing and nothing has had to be restored!


When ploughing his field, the farmer is always annoyed when the plough unearths one of these roundish-oval stones up to one meter in size. These strange structures, which look like giant loaves of bread, are popularly known as “loaf stones” and are often found in the fields and construction pits in the area around Altdorf near Nuremberg. What disturbs the farmer causes palaeontologists and collectors great excitement: This is because the limestone that makes up these concretions has often been deposited directly around the remains of an animal that lay on the seabed here during the Jurassic period. As a result, fantastically preserved fossils can often be found inside these strangely rounded stones. The ammonites and vertebrates found in these limestones have found their way into many museums and collections around the world.


In the subsurface of the entire Franconian Jura lies a layer of rock that is peppered with well-preserved ammonites. Where it comes to the surface, good finds are always possible.

Rarely, however, is it possible to recover such a beautiful piece of this rock layer and prepare it as masterfully as this find from the Neumarkt area. Three different species of ammonites, plus belemnites, oysters and brachiopods as well as several shell fragments lie loosely distributed on the former seabed.


Specimens of the genus Douvilleiceras are probably among the most beautiful ammonites of all.

However, they only reveal their beauty when the shell with its bizarre knots and ribs is preserved, as is the case here.

The two specimens in the display cabinet on the left still have their original mother-of-pearl shell – in the two darker pieces on the right, the mother-of-pearl has been replaced by the mineral calite over millions of years. Both have their very own visual appeal.

The Cleoniceras in the left-hand display case also still has the iridescent mother-of-pearl on its surface – as does the small Desmoceras, which was probably washed into the entrance to the living chamber of the larger ammonite by a current on the sea floor.


When the tracks had to be tunnelled through the mountain as part of the expansion of the InterCity Express line between Munich and Nuremberg, only around 10 kilometres from Dinopark, it was the ideal situation for palaeontologists: huge quantities of completely fresh, unweathered rock from the fossil-rich Middle Jurassic were extracted from deep within the mountain. In the years that followed, the spoil heap became an Eldorado for many fossil collectors, who made rich pickings there.

This display case is representative of many other excellent fossil sites in the vicinity of the Dinopark and shows some of the most beautiful and in some cases extremely rare ammonites that the collector Jens Kucharski found on the spoil heap of the tunnel and then prepared excellently.

Even today, excavation pits in the vicinity of the Dinopark continue to bring fossil-bearing rock to the surface and provide collectors with rich pickings.


The genera Normannites and Stephanoceras are a classic example of the different shells of males and females. The small Normannites is barely larger than 5 cm and has a long apophysis, i.e. a beak-like elongated mouth. Its female partner Stephanoceras reaches many times this size!


After the death of the ammonite, dark mud seeped into the front, open part of the sawn-open housing, which now completely fills the living chamber

Further inside, the walls between the air chambers prevented the mud on the sea floor from penetrating. Some of these chambers are still hollow today. A thin layer of the shiny golden mineral pyrite was later deposited on their walls. On the outside of the complete specimen, there are remnants of mother-of-pearl from the original shell next to the pyrite.


An incredible number of ammonites inhabited the primordial oceans. In some layers of rock, the fossilised shells lie close together. According to a conservative calculation, the approx. 20 cm thick layer of rock from Bavaria, from which this spectacular piece comes, harbours around 5 trillion ammonites – all of which are still trapped in the rock deep in the earth.

Considering the fact that only a tiny fraction of all ammonites that have ever lived have been fossilised, this is definitely beyond imagination!

Rarely is it possible to recover such a beautiful piece of this rock and prepare it as masterfully as in this find.

A closer look reveals not only almost 50 ammonites belonging to eight different species, but also mussels, tower snails, belemnites, brachiopods, oysters and even a sea urchin spine. There are also several shell fragments that were probably cracked by crabs from the ammonites’ living chambers.


Professor Friedrich August Quenstedt

The Swabian Alb region is not only home to many of the best-researched ammonite sites in the world, it is also where the studies of the ammonite fauna of the Jurassic period began.

The three-part book by Tübingen professor Friedrich

August Quenstedt from the years 1883 to 1888 is regarded one of the most fundamental and famous works. Quenstedt was also the one who developed the tripartite division of the Jurassic strata into the Black, Brown and White Jurassic, which is still valid today, and who correlated the different rock layers on the basis of their typical ammonites.


The spiral shape of the ammonite case has deeply touched people’s imagination and mystical feelings for thousands of years.

The shape of the shell follows the marvellous mathematical law of the logarithmic spiral – better known in art as the golden ratio.

In the Vogelherd cave near Ulm, a piece of a man-made ammonite was discovered that is around 40,000 years old. In ancient Egypt, priests used ammonites to inspire their prophecies, and to this day they play a role among Hindus and Buddhists as a symbol of enlightenment, and is an aid to meditation.

The amulets on display come from Papua New Guinea. Members of the Dani tribe, who practised cannibalism less than 100 years ago, wore these ammonite amulets around their necks to protect them from evil spirits.


Like this mammites from Morocco, ammonites are often damaged in a characteristic way. If you take a closer look at the damage, you will notice that it is usually located right at the end of the living chamber. Scientists suspect that “normal” squid attacked the ammonites from behind, holding them with their tentacles and then biting a hole in the hard shell with their sharp, pointed jaws. They then pulled the animal out of its protective shell through this hole and ate it.

Douvilleiceras in the nodule

This inconspicuous rock nodule contains an ammonite!

After preparation, it is very likely to resemble the finished specimen in the display case on the right.

Douvilleiceras – fully prepared!

The specimen shown in the display case on the left should also turn out to be such a splendid specimen after preparation – at least we hope so!


This find was “just lying there” one morning in the sea! It was actually a piece of a limestone bank that had been torn out of the rock formation by the surf. Over time, the rock was ground down and rounded off on all sides by the roaring waves. In addition, shells dug into the surface of the rock, giving the boulder its perforated appearance. Ammonites that were on the edge of the rock were destroyed in the process – but those that were further inside could be immaculately prepared.


This ammonite is one of the extremely rare and exciting finds where we can still clearly recognise which predator caused the death of the ammonite: a large mosasaur has firmly gripped it with its powerful jaws. The position of the holes in the shell correspond exactly with the position of the attacker’s teeth!


Three ammonites move peacefully across the floor of the lagoon of the southern German Jurassic Sea. The resurrection of this extinct species was only possible thanks to the immense financial and moral commitment of all the staff at the dinosaur park.

Please don’t bang on the window – the animals are not used to the stress of human hecticness.


A large hook like this is unique in the evolutionary history of ammonites. What do you think it was used for? Nobody knows for sure. Perhaps it was simply there to draw attention to itself – just to show off, so to speak?


This is an extreme example of an evolute housing spiral, i.e. one that is rolled up in many turns. If a thread is attached to the coils, the total length of the casing tube is 320 centimetres.


This piece is also one of the most spectacular finds ever made on the Walsh River. All three ammonites are perfectly preserved.


This piece is also one of the most spectacular finds ever made on the Walsh River. All three ammonites are perfectly preserved.


Although the ammonites from the limestones of the lowermost Jurassic have been known for over 150 years, they were considered practically impossible to prepare.

Here, too, it is a collector and amateur preparator who has broken the dam and, with infinite care, has begun to perfectly carve out the ammonites, which are almost inseparable from the hard rock. May Uwe Fidder find many imitators – the bar is high!

Between 65 and over 200 hours of work went into each of the three pieces shown.