Fossil Oyster Reef

Natural History Museum Vienna

Natural History Museum Vienna

Crassostrea gryphoides (giant oyster) & Perna aquitanica (giant mussel). Stetten in Lower Austria. 16.5 million years.

The largest oysters and mussels ever to live formed a mighty reef in today’s Korneuburg Basin. This was also the origin of the world’s largest fossil pearl.

The oyster reef at Korneuburg is a snapshot of the Earth’s history. Sandy and clay deposits with thousands of fossils tell paleontologists pretty exactly what happened there 16.5 million years ago. At that time, the Korneuburg Basin was a paradise, with an extensive estuary mouth reaching far into a tropical sea. In the shallow waters, sharks, rays, and dolphins glided over the sea bottom, and sea cows grazed in the meadows of seaweed. In the tidal zone, there was a huge reef with thousands of oysters. After a giant tsunami, huge quantities of sand and mud covered the dead reef.
This led to the preservation of an outstanding attraction in the history of the Earth; The biggest fossil oyster reef with over 15,000 shells on a surface of over 400 square meters, the biggest giant oyster with a shell over 80 centimeters long, the biggest fossil pearl with a diameter of four centimeters, the oldest Ganges dolphin, the last European alligators … Over 650 described species of plants and animals also make the Korneuburg Basin probably the world’s best-researched fossil biotope.
The oyster reef was uncovered and prepared between 2005 and 2008 in more than 15,000 hours of work. Today, it can be seen at the “Weinviertel Fossil World”, a geopark in Stetten (www.fossilienwelt.at).
Two small sections were laboriously packed in foam and removed as sheets. They give a first impression at the NHM of the paleontological sensation near Vienna.

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  • Title: Fossil Oyster Reef
  • Rights: (c) NHM (Lois Lammerhuber)