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Does this Melanerpeton display patterned pigmentation?


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Here is a Melanerpeton humbergense. I acquired this lower Permian branchiosaurid recently from a well-known dealer in the Netherlands. I had been eyeing this specimen for some time and decided now would be a good time as ever to pull the trigger on it. Even with some bone missing it was a nice price for a nice creature that probably would have been about 12 centimeters long in life or close to it.

 

Much of the fun of fossils for me is to find and read as much material on them as I can. The most prominent recent paper on Melanerpeton is TIMELESS DESIGN: COLORED PATTERN OF SKIN IN EARLY PERMIAN BRANCHIOSAURIDS (TEMNOSPONDYLI: DISSOROPHOIDEA) (Werneburg 2009) regarding a 19 cm long specimen of Melanerpton tenerum found at Börtewitz in Saxony. This paper describes a "spotted pattern of skin color" which feature patterned spots (gaps in the pigmentation?) of about 2 to 5 millimeters in width.

 

The fossil I own has been identified by the seller as Melanerpeton humbergense and is from a completely different location, Odernheim in Pfalz. I am somewhat confident in those IDs of location and species. The stone closely resembles other branchiosaur specimens from Pfalz I have seen internet photos of. I can find no contra-indicatory features in my fossil to the rather detailed description of M. humbergense in THE INTRARELATIONSHIPS AND EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY OF THE TEMNOSPONDYL FAMILY BRANCHIOSAURIDAE (Schoch, Milner 2008). M. humbergense is a different species from a different location of a slightly different stratigraphy than M. tenerum.

 

Still, there is color on the stone of my fossil that may suggest a possible pattern of open circles. I present this fossil to the forum for open consideration of this feature. I seek to avoid a confirmation bias and hope to get an understanding of what is there, whether that understanding is positive or negative. Hopefully there are some European collectors here who have seen many of these before in hand, and collectors familiar with the preparatory methods used. Per the seller, there has been no restoration. The fossil seems to show none of the protective surface coating often applied to branchiosaur specimens from other sellers.

 

Factors that may be negative to a confirmation of patterned pigmentation to this specimen:


M. tenerum and M. humbergense are different species from different locations from a different stratigraphic period.
None of the possible 'patterned circles' seem to be evident on my fossil's tail, only a portion of the thorax,
There is no counterpart impression to examine.
Per Werneburg "Hundreds of branchiosaurid specimens are known from the vertebrate Lagerstaette Börtewitz, but only one is preserved with colored skin pattern. " This would suggest that finding a branchiosaurid with colored skin pattern would be very improbable.

 

More photos will be posted after this initial photo.

Thank you for looking, and I hope you enjoy this little bit of mystery as much as I do.

HPIM7561.JPG

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I've got a few of these, and I hadn't heard of the pigmentation part before but come to think of it some of mine look a bit spotted. A lot of the skin is missing in your specimen, if you take a close up of the skin that remains, it might help. I'll also tag @hauyn888 who is much more knowledgeable on these than myself, perhaps he knows more.

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51 minutes ago, WhodamanHD said:

I've got a few of these, and I hadn't heard of the pigmentation part before but come to think of it some of mine look a bit spotted. A lot of the skin is missing in your specimen, if you take a close up of the skin that remains, it might help. I'll also tag @hauyn888 who is much more knowledgeable on these than myself, perhaps he knows more.

Thanks. The Werneburg paper showing the spotted M. tenerum is easily available online, the preservation of that specimen is spectacular and the pattern there is unmistakable.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another thing to note about this specimen is the appearance of the forelimb on the right. It appears smaller in size and proportion than the one on the left. Could this be an example of regenerative growth such as seen in modern amphibians? It's neat to imagine these little Permian ponds teeming full of branchiosaurs, perhaps nipping limbs off each other.

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7 minutes ago, jpenn said:

Another thing to note about this specimen is the appearance of the forelimb on the right. It appears smaller in size and proportion than the one on the left. Could this be an example of regenerative growth such as seen in modern amphibians? It's neat to imagine these little Permian ponds teeming full of branchiosaurs, perhaps nipping limbs off each other.

I've noticed this as well, but regeneration had never occurred to me. 

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Hallo back again....thanks for the invitation to this topic.

First: I´ve to say that this was new for me what Werneburg published - so I had to read about it and looked for the pictures you described and found them. 

Second:  Sometimes it is difficult to identify the little amphibians unequivocally - is your dealer sure that the specimen is Melanerpeton humbergense or perhaps another...? Odernheim is a town in Rhineland-Pallatinate and there are nearby a lot of locations where you can find Melanerpeton ( we, the collectors call them all Branchiosaurus) - for example the dealer can say the location is odernheim and here the location and the layers from the `Humberg`or the layers from ´Klauswald´ or ´Kalkbank´ - now we have a problem because each location is only a little ´time- window´ of perhaps 100.000 years in a stratigraphie of 10.000.000 years. And when your specimen is found in Rehborn than nobody would tell you, everybody will say Odernheim ( Rehborn is only 3 km/1,5 mile far away from Odernheim..). If you look now in such a time-window, there you will find the typical population of this time in this ecosystem...So from which location is your specimen?

Citation:"See first, think later, then test. But always see first. - now we test! For further information visit: http://permfossil.de/vertebratenhttp://permfossil.de

Mr. Krätschmer, the author is a collector and preperation-specialist who found the most fossils in Rhineland- Pallatinate -now you have to decide if the ID of your specimen is right. 

Third: I digged a lot, and found a lot of these little amphibians as yours with fossilisized skin - but never noticed structures as Werneburg describes - Sorry!

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On 11/19/2017 at 10:28 AM, hauyn888 said:

Hallo back again....thanks for the invitation to this topic.

First: I´ve to say that this was new for me what Werneburg published - so I had to read about it and looked for the pictures you described and found them. 

Second:  Sometimes it is difficult to identify the little amphibians unequivocally - is your dealer sure that the specimen is Melanerpeton humbergense or perhaps another...? Odernheim is a town in Rhineland-Pallatinate and there are nearby a lot of locations where you can find Melanerpeton ( we, the collectors call them all Branchiosaurus) - for example the dealer can say the location is odernheim and here the location and the layers from the `Humberg`or the layers from ´Klauswald´ or ´Kalkbank´ - now we have a problem because each location is only a little ´time- window´ of perhaps 100.000 years in a stratigraphie of 10.000.000 years. And when your specimen is found in Rehborn than nobody would tell you, everybody will say Odernheim ( Rehborn is only 3 km/1,5 mile far away from Odernheim..). If you look now in such a time-window, there you will find the typical population of this time in this ecosystem...So from which location is your specimen?

Citation:"See first, think later, then test. But always see first. - now we test! For further information visit: http://permfossil.de/vertebratenhttp://permfossil.de

Mr. Krätschmer, the author is a collector and preperation-specialist who found the most fossils in Rhineland- Pallatinate -now you have to decide if the ID of your specimen is right. 

Third: I digged a lot, and found a lot of these little amphibians as yours with fossilisized skin - but never noticed structures as Werneburg describes - Sorry!

Thank you very much for the reply, it's excellent to know some information from someone who knows these locations and fossils first-hand.  The listing of vertebrate fauna/sites shared @ permfossil is very helpful, for branchiosaurs and also for the fish which I am also interested in. Unfortunately all I have is 'Odernheim' for a location. So, all I can try to identify my specimen with is comparison to diagrams and photographs in publications.

 

This is very useful information for collecting the entire rotliegend biota, thanks!

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I see more missing skin impressions than colorations, but it would be nice to see some good close up photos.  As for the front legs, it is hard to determine which bones are present in this specimen, and which bones aremissing.  Neither leg seems to have  a full compliment of leg bones, so the difference could be due to different preservation/preparation on both sides.   Again, good close ups would be helpful.  Not to say that regeneration is out, but ....

 

In any case, nice fossil.  

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On 22.11.2017 at 4:16 AM, jpenn said:

Thank you very much for the reply, it's excellent to know some information from someone who knows these locations and fossils first-hand.  The listing of vertebrate fauna/sites shared @ permfossil is very helpful, for branchiosaurs and also for the fish which I am also interested in. Unfortunately all I have is 'Odernheim' for a location. So, all I can try to identify my specimen with is comparison to diagrams and photographs in publications.

 

This is very useful information for collecting the entire rotliegend biota, thanks!

hallo jpenn.....or you send some pics to me and I ´ll try helping you -  for the fishes maybe you have some information of the fund horizon, layers, benches? If not can you contact the seller, perhaps he can give you some more information. Greetings chris

( ps.: have you seen my little sharks and other fishes ?)

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I don't think this is Melanterpeton but it might be Micromelerpeton. Micromelerpetid rather than branchiosaurid, but both closely related. I'm not sure if you have a colo pattern preserved, but you might have pigments.

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