Open main menu

The Fur Formation is a marine geological formation of Ypresian (Lower Eocene Epoch, c. 56.0-54.5 Ma) age which crops out in the Limfjord region of Denmark from Silstrup via Mors and Fur to Ertebølle, and can be seen in many cliffs and quarries in the area. The Diatomite Cliffs (moler in Danish) is on the Danish list of tentative candidates for World Heritage and may become a world Heritage site.[1]

Fur Formation
Stratigraphic range: Ypresian
~55.8–53.5 Ma
Coastal cliff on the Danish island Fur - Mo-clay and ash layers
TypeGeological formation
Sub-unitsSee: Members
UnderliesRøsnes Ler
OverliesHolmehus Formation
Thickness60 metres (200 ft)
Coordinates56°50′16″N 8°57′43″E / 56.83778°N 8.96194°E / 56.83778; 8.96194
Country Denmark
Type section
Named forFur



The Fur Formation is a unit of diatomitic sediment approximately 60 meters thick consisting of diatoms and clay minerals with up to 180 layers of volcanic ash.[2] In Danish literature the formation has informally been referred to as the moler (Ler means clay). The diatomite comprises 2/3 opal tests of diatoms and 1/3 clay, interbedded with layers of volcanic ash and a few limestone horizons (‘cementstones’), and has exceptionally complete fossil preservation.

It is known for its abundant fossil fish, insects, reptiles, birds and plants. The Fur Formation was deposited just above the Palaeocene-Eocene boundary, about 55 million years ago, and its tropical or sub-tropical flora indicate that the climate after the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum was moderately warm (approximately 4-8 degrees warmer than today).

Glacial activity has moved and folded all exposed moler in a complicated pattern which permits very precise mapping of glacial movement at the end of the last ice age, and has, due to the ash layers, created an extraordinary pedagogical case for studying tectonics.


The Fur Formation is divided into two members: The lower Knudeklint Member was named for a location on the island of Fur. The upper Silstrup Member was named for a location in Thy. The stratigraphy exposed at Knudeklint constitutes the unit that containing the Paleocene/Eocene boundary informally named Stolleklint Clay, which grades up into the Fur Formation.


Fossils of great diversity and unique preservation (only 10 my. after the ‘great extinction’ of dinosaurs, ammonites etc.) Most unusual, if not unique, diversity of life from both ocean and land with extremely good preservation of details rarely seen, therefore very reliable reconstruction of palaeobiology. By far most of the important ‘Danekræ’ fossils since 1990 have been found in the ‘Mo-clay area’.[3]


The earliest Paleogene fauna of any diversity, over 30 species, including some near complete, some preserved in 3-D, and some excellent bird-fossils (even with feathers and chromatine). Most are earliest known representatives of their orders (e.g. Trogons, Swifts, Ibises) and all are terrestrial birds.[4][5][6]


Several fossil sea turtles are known from the Fur Formation.[6] In one of them, a large leatherback turtle (Eosphargis breineri)[13] remains of soft tissue and skin pigmentation have been recovered [14] A number of well-preserved turtle specimens have been recovered from the Fur Formation, two of which have been recognized to be a completely new species of the genus Tasbacka [15]

Sea snakes are also known from the Fur Formation.[16][17]


Large teleostean fauna, oceanic, possibly including earliest truly deep water fish, a ‘whale-fish’; earliest members of many living families and Tertiary diversity preserved as complete skeletons; some rare and sensational large and complete specimens (two ‘bony tongues’, one tarpon.[6][20]


Huge fauna from land, over 200 species, earliest Tertiary diversity known, many are oldest of their families; many with colour spots and eye lenses, some extraordinary preservation with stridulation (sound) apparatus in grasshoppers, and apparently migratory moth mass mortality.[6][21][22]


Extraordinary cirripeds (barnacles), and the only fossil shrimps from Denmark.[23]


Nucula sp., Mytilus roesnaesiensis, Mytilus sp., Gari sp.

Land plantsEdit

Some members of the ‘Arcto-Tertiary flora’; some with cuticle preservation and some flowers preserved. Large silicified trunks (up to 9 m) of redwood, and some very soft wood preserved. Some trunks with mussels and barnacles attached. Many seeds and fruits.[6][24]


Great diversity of unicellular, marine algae with siliceous (opal) tests, 130 species.[25]

Ash layersEdit

More than 200 layers of volcanic ash of predominantly basaltic composition have been found within the Mo-clay of the Fur Formation. 179 of the most prominent ash layers have been numbered. Comparison with volcanic ash layers in oil wells in the North Sea indicates that the Mo-clay is coeval with the Sele Formation and Balder Formation in the North Sea.[26] The ash layers have also been found at other sites in Denmark, England, Austria and the Bay of Biscay.

The total eruption volume of this series have been calculated as 21,000 km3, which occurred in 600,000 years. The most powerful single eruption of this series took place 54.0 million years ago (Ma) and ejected ca. 1,200 km3 of ash material, which makes it one of the largest basaltic pyroclastic eruptions in geological history. [27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Heritage Agency of Denmark
  2. ^ Pedersen, G.K. & Surlyk, F. 1983: The Fur Formation, a late Paleocene ash-bearing diatomite from northern Denmark. Bulletin Geological Society of Denmark, 32, 43-65.
  3. ^ Bonde, N., Andersen, S., Hals, N., and Jakobsen, S.T. (2008). Danekræ - Danmarks bedste fossiler. Copenhagen: Gyldendal. 224 pp.
  4. ^ DYKE, G. J., WATERHOUSE, D. M. & KRISTOFFERSEN, A. V. 2004: Three new fossil landbirds from the early Paleogene of Denmark. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark, 51, 47–56.
  5. ^ KRISTOFFERSEN, A. V. 2002b. An Early Paleogene trogon (Aves: Trogoniformes) from the Fur Formation, Denmark. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 22, 661–666.
  6. ^ a b c d e Pedersen, G. K., Pedersen, S. A. S., Bonde, N., Heilmann-Clausen, C., Larsen, L. M., Lindow, B., Madsen, H., Pedersen, A. K., Rust, J., Schultz, B. P., Storey, M. og Willumsen, P. S. 2012: Molerområdets geologi – sedimenter, fossiler, askelag og glacialtektonik. Geologisk Tidsskrift 2011, pp. 41–135, [1]
  7. ^ LEONARD, L., DYKE, G. J., & TUINEN, M. V. 2005. A new specimen of the fossil palaeognath Lithornis from the Lower Eocene of Denmark. American Museum of Natural History, New York. Number 3491, 11 pp..
  8. ^ LINDOW, B.,& DYKE, G. J. 2007. A small galliform bird from the Lower Eocene Fur Formation. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark, vol. 55, 59-63.; LINDOW s 56-63
  9. ^ Sara Bertelli, Luis M. Chiappe & Gerald Mayr: A new Messel rail from the Early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark (Aves, Messelornithidae), Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, Vol. 9, Issue 4, Dezember 2011, Seite 551–562, DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2010.538730
  10. ^ BERTELLI, S., LINDOW, B., DYKE, G. J., & CHIAPPE, L. M. 2010. A well-preserved 'Charadriiform-like' fossil bird from the early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. Palaeontology, Vol. 53, part 3, 507-531.;LINDOW s 76-117
  11. ^ WATERHOUSE, D. M., LINDOW, B., ZELENKOV, N. V., & DYKE, G. J. 2008. Two new parrots (Psittaciformes) From the Lower Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. Palaeontology, Vol. 51, Part 3, 575-582.
  12. ^ DYKE, G.J., WATERHOUSE, D. M., & KRISTOFFERSEN, A.V. 2004. Three new fossil landbirds from the early Paleogene of Denmark, Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark. Vol. 51, 77-85. Copenhagen.
  13. ^ a b NIELSEN, E. 1963. On the postcranial skeleton of Eosphargis breineri Nielsen. Meddelelser fra Dansk Geologisk Forening, 15, 281–328
  14. ^ Lindgren, J,, Sjövall, P., Carney, R.M., Uvdal, P., Gren J.A., Dyke, G., Schultz, B.P., Shawkey, M.D., Barnes K.R., and Polcyn, M.J., 2014: Skin pigmentation provides evidence of convergent melanism in extinct marine reptiles. Nature. 2014 Jan 8. doi: 10.1038/nature12899.
  15. ^ Karl, H.-V. & Madsen, H. (2012): Tasbacka danica n. sp., A new Eocene marine turtle of Denmark (Testudines: Chelonioidea).- Studia Palaeocheloniologica 4: 193-204
  16. ^ a b HOCH, E. 1975. Amniote remnants from the eastern part of the Lower Eocene North Sea Basin. Colloque International du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, 218, 543–562.
  17. ^ a b Kristensen, H.V., Cuny, G., Rasmussen, A.R., ang Madsen, H., 2012: Earliest record of the fossil snake Palaeophis from the Paleocene/Eocene boundary in Denmark. Bull. Soc. géol. France, 2012, t. 183, no 6, p. 623-627
  18. ^ Nielsen, E., 1959: Eocene Turtles from Denmark, Dansk Geologisk Forening, BD. 14, Hefte 2. p. 96-115 |
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^ BONDE, N. 1997: A distinct fish fauna in the basal ashseries of the Fur/Ølst Formation (U. Paleocene, Denmark). Aarhus Geoscience, 6, 33–48.
  21. ^ ARCHIBALD, S. B. &MARKARKIN, V. N. 2006: Tertiary Giant Lacewings (Neuroptera: Polystoechotidae): Revision and description of new taxa from Western North America and Denmark. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 4, 119–155.
  22. ^ LARSSON, S.G., 1975: Palaeobiology and mode of burial of the insects of the Lower Eocene Mo-clay of Denmark. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark, vol. 24 p. 193-209. [2]
  23. ^ GARASSINO, A. & JAKOBSEN, S. L. 2005: Morscrangon acutus n. gen. n. sp. (Crustacea, Decapoda, Caridea) from the Fur Formation (Early Eocene) of the Islands of Mors and Fur (Denmark). Atti Societa italiana di Scienze naturali, Museo civico di Storia nataturale, Milano, 146, 95–107.
  24. ^ Sakala, J., & Gryc, V., 2011: A new species of Rhysocaryoxylon (Juglandaceae) from the Lower Eocene Fur Formation of Mors island (northwest Jutland, Denmark). Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark, Vol. 59, p 45–49
  25. ^ HOMANN, M. 1991. Die Diatomeen der Fur Formation. Geologisches Jahrbuch, A 123, 1–285.
  26. ^ Pedersen, S.A.S (2008). "Paleogene diatomite deposits in Denmark: geological investigations and applied aspects" (PDF). Bulletin of Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. 15: 21–24.
  27. ^ Egger, H. and Brückl, E., 2006: Gigantic volcanic eruptions and climatic change in the early Eocene - International Journal of Earth Sciences, Volume 95, Number 6, 1065-1070.

External linksEdit