Early Phase (Bonn I) – The Discoverer Klaus J. Müller and His First Activities

Klaus on the Isle of Oeland, Sweden

In 1963 Klaus J. Müller came from Berlin, where he had finished his dissertation and habilitation, to the University of Bonn to receive a C4 professorship of micropalaeontology at the Institute of Palaeontology of the University of Bonn. Already in Berlin he was very interested in all kinds of exceptional preservation, such as silification and phosphatisation. Now in Bonn, he could establish his own research field and, for a long time, Klaus worked systematically on mainly Cambrian conodonts and on their inner fine structure, partly together with his Japanese colleague, Prof. Nogami.

Already in 1964, Klaus had published a long paper on Swedish Cambrian bivalved arthropods called Phosphatocopina, but it took until 1975, when the first fossils in an 'Orsten'-type soft-integument preservation was detected by him and his technical assistants. Klaus immediately realized the importance of these findings because of their high quality of preservation and completeness, and because of their high age.

Using considerable personal and lobarotory efforts (including special microscopes [Zeiss] for sorting), more than 1 1/2 tons of 
'Orsten' limestone rock were dissolved in a specifically designed laboratory in Bonn, and the insoluble residues picked by the technical assistants and pre-documented using a scanning electron microscope (the legendary Cambridge S4).

Without this extremely high effort, Klaus' knowledge of chemistry, his organizational skills, and his lasting high interest, this exceptionally rare material would have neverbeen assembled in a quantity needed for our thorough analysis. Yet, a severe illness cause Klaus to pause in the late 19seventies. His illness was extremely severe, and he had to stay at the hospital for quite some time.

During this period, Klaus could, however, rely on several invaluable and skilled assistants who continued to sort the material, prepare the first results, i.e. specimens in microslides or on SEM stubs, which are investigated now in Ulm.
His assistants also made the first SEM photographs.

Three of the persons have to be named here in particular:

  • Mrs. Helga Rehbach, name-giving for Rehbachiella,
  • Mrs. Gossmann, who helped far into the 1990ies (one species the pentastomids was named gossmannae after her), and
  • Mrs. Peilert, who was thanked for her sorting effort by giving Dala its species name peilertae.

It became clear to Klaus very soon that he alone would not be able to work up this diverse material, preserved in a "biological quality" in an adequate way. At this step, he had to decide either to continue looking for other 'Orsten'-like occurrences worldwide or to investigate the 'Orsten' fauna in much depth, i.e. with a biological background.

Klaus finally decided in favour of an in-depth-study of the 'Orsten' fauna and to postpone further search for similar 'Orsten'-type faunas for the time being. This is, when Dieter joined in ...

Besides the intense Orsten research Klaus started after the discovery of "soft parts", he continued his work on other phosphatic microfossils, mainly the conodonts, which culminated in a large monograph on this taxon together with Ingelore Hinz-Schallreuter in 1993 published in Fossils and Strata. He also continued to work on shelly fragments, e.g. in material from Australia, which also contained sceletal elements of the cuticle of certain, most likely cycloneuralian nemathelminths called palaeoscolecids. Papers on certain shall shellies and on palaeoscolecids were also published in conjunction with Ingelore Hinz-Schallreuter.


Phase of the Co-Operation of Dieter Waloszek and Klaus Müller (Bonn II)

This phase started 1981, when Klaus assistant Raimond Below had to join the army. In order not to let the position empty, Klaus hired Dieter as a research assistant for one year. During this time, Dieter prepared much of the Müller (1983) paper on six non-phosphatocopine Orsten Crustacea. Dieter left Bonn with the promise of a contract in his pocket if he would finish his pdh in due course (one year).

In 1982, Dieter had finished much of his dissertation thesis and was allowed to return to Bonn and into Klaus' working group already in fall. After the successful defence of his thesis in spring 1983, Dieter received a full research position in Bonn and collaborated with Klaus until 1994 – long after Klaus had formally retired.

Some key events: the invitation by Euan Clarkson to a conference in Edinburgh in 1984 on "Fossil arthropods as living organisms", Dieter's visit of Robert Hessler and William Newman at the SCRIPPS Insitution of Oceanography in California, Dieter's visit to Australia together with Raimond Below to discover more Orsten-type material in the outback of the Northern Territory. First publications on this appeared a few years later and more are currently under way. Guides of this trip were the late John Shergold from Canberra, Australia, well known for his agnostid studies, and John Laurie, still active in Australia. In 1989 Dieter went again to SCRIPPS and also to various other places to give talks, including Chicago, meeting Roy Plotnick, Cambridge, where he was lucky to meet Stephen J. Gould, and Walpole, Maine meeting Les Watling.

1990 was of significance in two ways, the publication of the first paper following the method of phylogenetic systematics (Walossek & Müller 1990, see list of references), and the submission of Dieter's habilitation.

The 'Orsten' project, initiated and led by Klaus, was continuously funded by the German Research Foundation DFG 
until 1994, even long after Klaus's retirement in 1988! During his long working period, the principal focus of Klaus and, later together with Dieter, on the arthropod components in the faunal associations (4 big Fossils & Strata monographsresulted from this and various smaller papers, some still available, ask us for a copy). Yet, they were able to progressively expanded their studies also to material from different ages, e.g., from the Middle Cambrian, to the boundary between Cambrian and Ordovician, from different regions, e.g., Canada, Russia, Australia, and Poland, to material also from other groups of organisms, such as Pentastomida, Tardigrada, Priapulida, and some Problematica (examples given below).

In 1992/3, Andreas Braun joined in and travelled with Klaus and Dieter to Moscow to negotiate new collaborations. In the same year Klaus and Dieter have a nice joint field trip to Sweden, visiting Öland, Öostergötland (Motala) and Västergötland. 1994 Dieter and Klaus published a paper on the oldest parasites ever found, members of Pentastomida (tongue worms). 1994 was a big break because not only Dieter's job expired in Bonn, but he received a substitute professorship in Kiel. This position resulted in the successful application for a permanent professorship in Ulm – and not in Hamburg, as expected or hoped by him because of his northern German origin.


The Ulm Phase - Part I

Since 1995, Dieter is working at the university of Ulm. Together with the professorship he received theposition of the head of the newly established Section for Biosystematic Documentation, which was, however, closed down in 2006 by the University due to so-called "structural re-organisation".

Continuation of the 'Orsten' research has been guaranteed by Klaus kindly permitting the transfer of the whole material to Ulm. Yet, Klaus still continues participating in our studies, not so much in co-authoring, but in discussing matters with us from time to time and supporting our work.

In 1997 Andreas Maas, funnily born in the same small town as Dieter, joined in, starting to work on euphausiid larvae (Euphausia superba) and euphausiid phylogeny as topic of his diploma work.

The real come back of 'Orsten' research took 4 years and started when this Dieter received a DFG-funded grant for Andreas in 1999 to investigate the huge material of Phosphatocopina in
 the frame of a doctorate thesis. This study was finished with Andreas' successful defence in 2002. The results (one to one) were published as another Fossils & Strata monograph in 2003 (our fifth one on 'Orsten' arthropods).

Currently, Andreas is working as a research assistant in the section, having collaborated with Dieter also on Chengjiang fossils from 2002 to 2005. He also finished his habilitation successfully in April 2008.

Exploration of new 'Orsten' occurrences worldwide in younger, and, even more important, in strata older than the 
Swedish Orsten had to be postponed by Klaus and Dieter due to "hands free". This was reconsidered already in the mid-nineties, when Andreas Braun joined the 'Orsten' working group in Bonn (our joint trip to Moscow, Russia yielded the little tardigrade from Siberia).

In 2001, Andreas Braun and Dieter could undertake an extended field trip to the tundra of north eastern Siberia(Olenek river area suth of the Lena delta), where they collected about 100 kg of rock material hoping to get more 'Orsten'-type fossils (financed by Klaus). Some images of this most remarkable expedition – guided by two Russian field geologists – will be added here soon.

In 2003 Martin Stein, palaeontology student from the university of Marburg, started to work on 'Orsten' "odds and ends" in the course of our DFG project and also helped in the China project, in which Dieter, Andreas and also Andreas Braun were engaged at that time. In the early summer of 2004 Martin left us us for a better paid postion in Uppsala, Sweden, but continued working with us on different projects since then – see below.

From March 2004 to May 2005 Andreas Braun had been able to devote his efforts exclusively to tasks within the 
frame of our directed search and work in China. A highlight was a trip to Sweden, Öland and Västergötland (Falbygden and Kinnekulle), in the summer of 2004 , together with Martin as our translator.

There, we could meet John Ahlgren, amateur palaeontologist and knower of the Kinnekulle area, who gave us some rock from which we successfully extracted more pentastomid material. We are currently – better: whenever time allows – working on it.

During his stay in Ulm and continuing in Uppsala, Sweden, Martin developed 3D models of one of our critters named Oelandocaris oelandica Müller, 1983, using the software Blender. He could even animate the animal in a nice and persuasive manner (klick here to see it swimming).

After a first short publication on Oelandocaris oelandica (Stein et al. 2005), we have worked together on a more detailed paper about this interesting "stem crustacean" und recently, which has just been published (see publications). Martin could also discriminate seevral different ontogenetic stages, which led a a better structuring of the morphology not as a variation, but differences between the specimens due to developmental differences.

On the right side a sequence of images taken out of the movie to demonstrate the movement also in a publication.


The Ulm Phase - Part II

We consider spring 2005 as the date of a new period because we founded the international C.O.R.E. group. For long we had thought of something like a workgroup that aims at the concentration of expertise and the possible/hopefully even exploration of new sites, but at this time we put it into reality, and we could immediately attract several scientists to join in. The major tasks of the group during the next years will be to combine skills and expertise from different disciplines, to train youngsters and to help each other in the research on 'Orsten' and related issues.

Exciting new 'Orsten' material has been brought up in particular by our Chinese members Dong Xi-ping and Zhang Xi-guang, who discovered 'Orsten' 3D arthropods in China and joined in in 2005. More has been provided by Ewa Olempska from Poland joining in in 2005. Collaborations concerning this material are under way. We were also happy to recruit colleagues like the palaeontologist John Repetski from the USA, and David Siveter and Euan Clarkson, UK, both well-known palaeontologists, in 2005, with whom we had already co-operations before. David worked on various palaeozoic forms, including the 3D-'Orsten'-type preserved phosphatocopine from Comley, UK., and Euan is working for long on trilobites from the Swedish alum shales. Phil Donoghue joined in later during 2005 adding his expertise on embryo fossils (mainly nemathelminths). A big set arrived with colleagues from Copenhagen, Jens Høeg and Jørgen Olesen, working on crustaceans, and Reinhardt Kristensen working on minute animals like tardigrades and much more. Also zoologists like the Low-Reynolds specialist and expert on meiofauna crustaceans and highspeed cinematopgraphy, Rudi Strickler from Milwaukee, USA, or the chelicerate specialist Jason Dunlopfrom Berlin became members during 2005. With this, our group grew rapidly.

In December 2005 Joachim Haug started his PhD project on 'Orsten' larvae, and he and his wife Carolin Haug have been welcomed as new C.O.R.E.-Group members.

Already the first few months of Joachim's collaboration indicated that new things are to be expected. His huge effort and his enthusiasm led to a much better insight of the ontogeny of stem crustaceans, corrected various views based on our admittedly incomplete and, partly rough studies in 1990, and his excellent background in arthropods and the theory of PS also helped much in our discussions. Furthermore, his 3D reconstructions, initiated by Martin, will bring us much forward in a better way of comparing the different taxa and also to make comparisons with extant counterparts in terms of relationships or morphological/ecological similarities. In the meantime we have more than 10 species in three dee and now even in 4D, an new word created by Joachim for the modelling of 3d animals during ontogeny/time.

David Siveter visited Ulm in January 2006 continuing some work, and Dieter and Andreas met Dong Xiping and Zhang Xi-guang in China. Next, we could welcome the trilobite specialist Nigel Hughes in Ulm, who visited Dieter after a short stay in Tübingen. In April 2006 Liu Yu, who had finished his Master work on Chengjiang material (in the lab of Professor Hou), joined the club. Subsequently the palaeontologist Michael Steiner from Berlin, having worked already for long on fossil embryos and other phosphatized microfossils from China. Dieter also had the chance to do some first joint investigations with Xiping Dong during his stay in Beijing, while he was attending the 2nd International Congress of Paleontologists there. At the end of 2006, the zoologist Georg Mayer, Berlin, visited us to work on our lobopodian, joined in – by that time the CORE group had grown to 20 members. A good year end, enhanced by the membership of Gideon Haug, the youngest member (three months old by then).

Until early 2007, the CORE group grew further, attracting palaeontologists as well as zoologists, including Klaus Müller, the discoverer. Davidvisited us again to finish up the paper on a new find from China (see below). During this year, Mark Williams, now in Leicester, joined in. Mark will continue work on the Lower Cambrian Comley locality because his project has been approved recently – possibly even in collaboration with the Ulm team.

A severe event, and draw-back, was the discovery of prostate cancer for Dieter in May 2007, which forced him to be operated upon and radiation from October to December treatment. Although there are indications that also the radiation treatment did not stop the cancer

Regrettably, Mrs. Silvia Simmet, Dieter's secretary, had to leave by the end of September 2007 due to a decision of the university. She is now working for another department, so that we have to do all administrative jobs ourselves............

Better news was the successful publication of Yicaris from the Lower Cambrian of China together with our CORE member Zhang Xiguang on October 4th in NATURE. By the end of 2007 also our friend John (Jompa) Ahlgren from Mariestad near the Kinnekulle, Shweden, joined in, filling up the team with a skilled artist! The last of this year (so far) to join in is Christopher Castellani from France. Christopher started his job November 2, 2007, helping us in the frame of a EU-Molmorph funded position to work up the newly accumulated material of pentastomids from Västergötland.

Dieter had hoped that 2008 would bring him better news about his cancer but, regrettably, it still is just a hope to get back to "normal": cancer continued, though slowly, to grow, even after radiation. Even more, bad news was that a lymph bladder has to be operated this summer because it might have caused problems with thrombosis.

In February 2008, we could welcome two new CORE members, Zheng Lui from China, student of Dong Xiping, and Jakob Vinther from the USA, student of Derek Briggs. More on these two in due course. Lastly, after summer holidays, Wolfgang Böckeler, Kiel, not only handed his entire pentastomid material over to us, but als became a CORE member, and recently Jean Vannier from France joined in, having a student, David, working on conodonts. Both are currently in our lab inspecting conodont material from Klaus Müller here.


Our present research work in Ulm concentrates on the finalisation of papers on several stem crustaceans, Joachim Haug's dissertation, and more items in the surroundings of fossils and the evolution of Arthropoda and its putative relatives, and on putative priapulid loricae from Australia.