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Michael Wachtler

Michael Wachtler - Discoveries



DiscoveriesThrough the years Michael Wachtler made a lot a important discoveries.
230 million years ago: powerful volcanic eruptions
In the area of the Siusi Alps, from Predazzo and Buffaure an enormous quantity of volcanic material was thrust to the surface. Lava flows and deposits of tuff filled the depressions between the barriers, covering the coral reefs and killing all forms of life. Moments of frantic activity were followed by calm periods. The various life forms were thus able to start again and spread over the lava bed, only to be covered again at the next eruption. A varied vegetation flourished on little volcanic islands. The Daonella shell, with its elegant ribbing, found its ideal habitat in the waters near the coast of the little volcanic islands. The rocks are blanketed in shells. A large quantity of minerals crystallised in the volcanic areas.

A strange history of discovering
From 1990 Michael Wachtler discovered a variety of new conifers that so far had been unknown to science. All of them derive from an 242 to 230 million years ago, during which the Dolomites were situated in the tropics.
We can now document part of the history of an extraordinary plant revolution, revealing many links that have been missing until now. It was possible to relive the rise of the modern vegetation with the emergence of rapidly propagating cycads, the modern ferns, taking over the reign of the conifers as the dominant plants in the giant woods, and at least the evolving of flowering plants. I would first like to thank the beautiful nature that has given me so much satisfaction. From the day when I discovered the first new cycad Bjuvia dolomitica until now I have learned so many things about time and the relativity of human values. When I stood as a “time-traveller” on Piz da Peres I completely forgot about the busy, rushed and stressful life in the lower valleys. For weeks, months and years I searched for an abominable phantom: the discovery of all parts. I was led along wrong tracks and then corrected. The search for the different organs of a plant drove me mad. One day I found some part. Another day, many weeks later, another one. The individual pieces were put together. New pathways opened. I forgot about humanity and turned into another being.

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The plants

Voltzia dolomitica sp. nov.
(WACHTLER & KONIJNENBURG 2000)
Triassic - Ladinian
Willsiostrobus dolomiticus sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) male cone
Tirolstrobus dolomiticus gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) female cone

Voltzia of the Dolomites (New discovery). This primitive species of conifer, first discovered by Michael Wachtler, was widespread in the Southern Alps 230 million years ago.

Alpia ladinica sp. n.
(WACHTLER & KONIJNENBURG, 2000)
Triassic - Ladinian
Dolomitostrobus ladinicus gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) female cone
The Ladinian conifer (New discovery).
Populated the volcanic island of the Dolomites 230 million years ago.



Voltzia pragsensis sp. nov.
(WACHTLER & KONIJNENBURG 2000)
Triassic - Ladinian
The volcanic island Voltzia (New discovery).
One of the conifers, which populated the tropics 230 million years ago.





Equisetites arenaceus
(JÄGER, 1827)
Triassic - Ladinian
The most important Mesozoic horsetail.
This horsetail is known from many localities in Europe and therefore we have a good knowledge about its appearance.






Bjuvia dolomitica sp. n.
(WACHTLER & KONIJNENBURG 2000)
Triassic - Ladinian
Dioonitocarpidium moroderi (LEONARDI, 1953;
nov. comb. Kustatscher et. al. 2004) female cone
The Bjuvia-Cycad (New discovery).
At that time this cycad dominated the undergrowth and gave rise to the concept of the “Age of dinosaurs and cycads”.



Apoldia wengensis sp. n.
(WACHTLER & KONIJNENBURG 2000)
Triassic - Ladinian

The development of palm ferns (New discovery). It is presumed that this plant may have been a subspecies of the cycad group.

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241 million years ago: the beginning of a new world
241 million years ago, on Piz da Peres, in an unprecedented explosion of life, a Garden of Eden was developed such as had been totally unknown until then, with forms of life that are still seen on Earth today. There was an uncontainable development of conifers, cycads and lots of ferns, coinciding surprisingly with the decline of lycopods and Equisetites, which had once been so strong. All of a sudden, dinosaurs, snakes and lizards appeared almost out of nowhere.

Piz da Peres - The birth of a paradise
Since 1990, Michael Wachtler has spent his summers on Piz da Peres, in the Dolomites, as a kind of “time traveller”. His concern was to dig through millions of years until the beginning of time and, in doing this, he discovered a completely new paradise with many hitherto unknown plants, reptiles and other creatures. Michael Wachtler brought to light one new species after another, laboriously recovering one slab of stone after another, so as to make this paradise available to everyone as part of the human heritage.


Various reptile communities
Between Paleozoic and Mesozoic there came a turning point on Piz da Peres. Certain reptiles with five toes and four feet found it advantageous to stand erect on two feet, thus becoming the ancestors of the dinosaurs. Others, in turn, became nimble lizards or snakes. A process thus began that would have momentous consequences.


Megachirella wachtleri gen. nov. sp. n.
(RENESTO & POSENATO, 2002)
Triassic - Anisian
The ancestor of snakes and lizards (New discovery).
In 2003 the two scientists Silvio Renesto and Renato Posenato discovered that the skeleton found by Michael Wachtler at Pra della Vacca was an important link. In his honour they named the animal Megachirella wachtleri.



Rhyncosaurus
Triassic - Anisian
The parrot-saur.
In 2007, above the Furcia Pass, Michael Wachtler discovered one of the Alpine sites with the most traces of reptiles. A partly preserved reptile skeleton shows for the first time the animal responsible for the tracks left by creatures similar to lizards, often found on Piz da Peres, known as Rhyncosauroides tyrolicus. These animals were characterised by a beak similar to that of a parrot.



 Sphingopus ladinicus
(AVANZINI & WACHTLER, 2012)
Triassic - Anisian
The ancestor of the dinosaurs (New discovery).
In this period known as the Anisian, a new group of archosaurs positioned their rear feet more and more vertically under their body, thus beginning to stand on two feet with the result that the front feet became atrophied. Sphingopus, with its reduced forelegs and three-clawed hind leg, achieved all the properties of true dinosaurs that followed a little later.



Brachychirotherium parvum
(HITCHCOCK, 1889)
Triassic - Anisian

These were animals with round pads on the toes of their feet, narrow claws and handprints that were still relatively large. The creatures that left these tracks were early Thecodonts or Pseudosuchians.




Isochirotherium delicatum
(COUREL & DEMATHIEU, 1976)
Triassic - Anisian

These animal tracks were left by a creature known as the small-handed Chirotherium, already quite close to walking erect on two legs. It was an early dinosauroid sauropod.

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The fishes
The Piz da Peres is characterised by a rich fish assemblage belonging to five different families (Dipteronotus, Saurichthys, Bobasatrania, Gyrolepis and coelacanths). Dipteronotus is one of the best indicators of strong fresh water influx, Saurichthys widespread in the Thetydalean ocean in the Triassic period, was an able predator. Bobasatrania was another predator, but also a steady swimmer, scrunching with great accuracy its preys with a battery of minute teeth. The skeletons of the coelacanths recovered allow, the insertion of the species Heptanema.

Equisetites mougeotii
(BRONGNIART, 1828)
Triassic - Anisian
Echinostachys richthofeni gen. nov. sp. n. (WACHTLER, 2011)
(New discovery) (fertile cone)
Giant horsetails.
This high growing plant populates the planet for a long time in the Triassic.

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The decline of the lycopods
250 milion years ago the giant lycopods, once the dominant vegetation, were extinct. But one lycopod-tree survived the tremendous catastrophe: Lycopia. Discovered for the first time by Michael Wachtler in the Braies-Dolomites, these had to shrink more and more over time down to the present dwarf species.


Lycopia dezanchei gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Lycopodostrobus gaiae gen. nov. sp. n. (WACHTLER, 2011) (fertile)
Triassic - Anisian
The origin of today’s Lycopodiaceae (New discovery).
Lycopods still existed 240 million years ago. The ones we have today are creeping plants, only a few centimetres tall.




Isoetites brandneri sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
Ancient quillwort (New discovery).
This plant, still present today in humid zones rich in salt, has remained almost unchanged for millions of years.





 Lepacyclotes bechstaedtii sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
Dwarf Lycopod (New discovery).
This small, unobtrusive lycopod grew on the shores washed by the sea, 241 million years ago.






 Selaginellites leonardii sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
Dwarf Lycopod (New discovery).
This small, unobtrusive lycopod grew on the shores washed by the sea, 241 million years ago.





Selaginellites venieri sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
Spikemoss bifoliated (New discovery).
Since more than 240 million years this anysophyllous Selaginella, with two different types of leaves have never changed their appearance.






Pleuromeia sternbergi
(CORDA, 1852)
Triassic - Olenekian
Enigmatic lycopod.
Interesting and very common sub-arborescent lycophyte with unbranched, erect trunk. Seems to be extinct abruptly 244 million years ago.

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The diffusion of conifers
Alpia anisica and Schizolepis ungeri could be seen as ancestors of extant Pinaceae, whereas Voltzia agordica conduct to the especially on the Southern hemisphere numerous Araucariaceae. All these primitive conifer species from the Dolomites were discovered and described for the first time by Michael Wachtler.

Voltzia agordica comb. nov.
(UNGER, 1850, WACHTLER, 2011 nov. comb.)
Triassic - Anisian
Willsiostrobus agordicus sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) male cone
Tirolstrobus agordicus gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) female cone
Three-lobed conifer (New discovery).
All these conifers hold three-lobed seed-bracts.



Voltzia unescoensis sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011)
Triassic - Anisian
Willsiostrobus unescoensis sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) male cone
Tirolstrobus unescoensis gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) female cone
A strange conifer (New discovery).
This species of conifer superficially resembled today’s Araucarian-trees.


Aethophyllum stipulare
(BRONGNIART, 1828)
Triassic - Anisian
Willsiostrobus acuminatus
(GRAUVOGEL-STAMM, 1978) male cone
The shrubby conifer.
We have to do it with a low growing conifer.




Albertia alpina sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011)
Triassic - Anisian
Darneya schaurothi sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) male cone
Pusterostrobus haidingeri gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) female cone
The giant cone conifer (New discovery).
This conifer holds extremely large pollen cones.



Alpia anisica gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011)
Triassic - Anisian
Alpianthus anisicus gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) male cone
Dolomitostrobus anisicus gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) female cone
The ancestor of spruces (New discovery).
As the female as well as the male cone have striking resemblances with recent Pinacea.


Schizolepis ungeri sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011)
Triassic - Anisian
Alpianthus ungeri gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) male cone
Dolomitostrobus bellunensis gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2011) female cone
The two sized foliage conifer (New discovery).
This strange conifer produced larger sized adult and close fitted and more or less appressed juvenile foliage on the same branches. This habitus was preserved in some extant Cupressaceae such as Xanthocyparis (cupressus) vietnamensis native of Vietnam.

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Fantastic fern worlds
The Dolomites are characterised by an enormous quantity of fossil ferns, of the most varied species. Many of them, such as Osmundaceae, Lindsaeaceae or Marattiales, still inhabit the earth.




Wachtleria nobilis gen. nov. sp. n.
(KANDUTSCH, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
The noble fern (New discovery).
This fern strikes us for its exquisite beauty. It was probably an ancestor of the Lindsaeaceae, still to be found today in the Tropics.





Gordonopteris lorigae gen. nov. sp. n.
(VAN KONIJNENBURG ET. AL. 2006)
Triassic - Anisian
A fern honours two women (New discovery).
This plant owes its name to two lady scientists who made a precious contribution to research in the Dolomites, Carmela Loriga-Broglio and the Scotswoman Maria Ogilvie-Gordon.




Ladinopteris kandutschii gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER 2011)
Triassic - Anisian
The shady fern  (New discovery).
It’s ideal habitat was above all the moist and shady thickets under the conifers.






Anomopteris mougeotii
(BRONGNIART, 1828)
Triassic - Anisian
The Aphlebia fern.
It was distinguished by its strange, large pinnate leaves, which sat on the main axis, while the actual pinnules were tiny.




Anotopteris distans
(BRONGNIART, 1835)
Triassic - Anisian
The frond fern.
Large protruding fronds are the characteristic of this enigmatic fern.






Neuropteridium elegans
(BRONGNIART, 1828, SCHIMPER, 1879)
Scolopendrites grauvogelii (fertile)
(KONIJNENBURG ET. AL. 2006) (New discovery).
Triassic - Anisian
The elegant fern.
This small fern, largely known in the Triassic is characterized by its elegant leaflets, with many time forking secondary veins and a typical ovoid rhizome.




Neuropteridium voltzii
(BRONGNIART, 1828, SCHIMPER, 1879)
Scolopendrites scolopendrioides (fertile)
(KONIJNENBURG ET. AL. 2006) (New discovery).
Triassic - Anisian

Han van Konijnenburg - van Cittert, Evelyn Kustatscher and Michael Wachtler classified different kinds of ferns and their fructifications without doubt for the first time. They were primitive ferns, which spread rapidly after the great Permian-Triassic catastrophe.



Danaeopsis arenacea
(JÄGER 1827)
Triassic - Anisian
The “many-tongued” fern.
This fern achieved almost wide distribution in the northern hemisphere. However, whole palmed leaves have rarely been found.

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Unusual ferns with seeds
In the Permian and Triassic there were still extraordinarily unusual ferns that bore fruits.




Scytophyllum bergeri
(BORNEMANN, 1856)
Peltaspermum bornemannii n. sp.
(KUSTATSCHER ET. AL. 2007) fertile female (New discovery)
Pteruchus dezignii n. sp.
(WACHTLER, 2011) fertile male (New discovery)
Triassic - Anisian

This fern with seeds was once quite widespread. Thanks to the discovery on Piz da Peres, it has been possible to shed light on its structure.



Sagenopteris keilmannii sp. n.
(WACHTLER 2011)
Caytonia fedelei n. sp.
(WACHTLER 2011) fertile
Triassic - Anisian
(New discovery)
This fern with seeds, similar to the flowering plants of today, was striking for its unusual structure. For the first time it has been possible to reunite this strange new fern with its ovules.



Lugardonia paradoxa gen. nov. sp. n.
Triassic - Anisian
(New discovery)
Enigmatic strobilus from an unknown seed fern. It was discovered by Michael Wachtler, but described without permission by Kustatscher, E., Hemsley, A. & Van Konijnenburg-Van Cittert, J.H.A.

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A triumphal march of the cycads
Nowhere else in the world have so many fossil cycads been found as in the Dolomites. The cycads belong to one of the most unusual plant families. They appeared suddenly almost out of nothing and and dominate the world for several million years along with the dinosaurs. In no other place in the world can we trace their genesis like we can on the Piz da Peres. Even their extraordinary flowers and the traces of nibbling by small animals have been preserved right up to the present day.

Ladinia simplex gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
Dioonitocarpidium cycadea n. sp.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
The ancestor cycad (New discovery).
Leaves with a whole margin, with unbranched lateral veins, are often found on Piz da Peres. They show the first stages in the formation of the very first cycads. They mutated in a very short time. Forms of leaves in the most varied transitional stages have been found.


Bjuvia olangensis sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
Dioonitocarpidium loretzi n. sp.
(WACHTLER, 2010) female cone
Thetydostrobus marebbei n. sp.
(WACHTLER, 2010) male cone
The King Cycad (New discovery).
The single-leaf cycad grew even more, expanding its domain. The leaves that were torn off were well able to resist the storms. An idea was thus formed that complied increasingly with the plan.

Pseudoctenis braiesensis sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
The palm-leaf Cycad (New discovery).
Geometrical palmate leaves were formed from leaves that were accidentally worn. The first cycad had concluded its evolutionary process. For 240 million years there would be no further need for change, right up to modern times.




Nilssonia primitiva sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
The segmented leaf cycad (New discovery).
The single-leaf cycad probably began to open its leaves to put up a better resistance to frequent storms. A plant with a completely new structure was thus developed.

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The genesis of the flower
In the Dolomites we can document part of the history of extraordinary plants, revealing many links that have been missing until now: The angiosperms or flowers.




Pizperesia tannae gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2010)
Triassic - Anisian
A mysterious system of flowers  (New discovery).
This plant is unique in showing the structure of a primitive flower, as it is known only from the flowers that appeared much later.

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Tregiovo
A marvelous 275 million years old world.
The domination of conifers, the high percentage of cycadophyta, the presence of ginkgophyta, horsetails and ferns testify that Permian Tregiovo has more of a relationship with recent floras than the Carboniferous period. The xerophytic character of many plants suggests a savannah-like climate with intense floods in springtime and long-lasting dry seasons for mainly all the year. We have a similar habitat today in some regions of the southern part of Africa such as the Okavango Delta or the Serengeti. Inserted in the fossilised plant remains we have frequent animal footprints from lacertoid reptiles (Dromopus), which found sufficient surviving resources in this biocenosis.

The history of Tregiovo
Forest man Fèro Valentini is the real hero of the next amazing story of exploration. 2011 he conducted me to Tregiovo in the Trentino Dolomites. There 275 million years ago - in a savannas-like biocoenosis were deposited innumerable unknown plants. From this day arose in Féro the passion for evolution of life through the past and he spent much of his time in search of evidence of the changes. Also in the extremely cold winter times he never interrupted his pilgrimage. Without gloves in order to better feel the rock slabs, and with his long beard and hair iced up, he worked hard to discover new plant species. He never did it for money and generously donated all his specimens to museums. I will forever remember the beautiful days in experiencing nature with Fèro. He would bring out his self-pressed wild-living apples juice, and also his sausages, called “lucanica” from his rucksack. As we looked around the ancient woods of the Val di Non I felt that I was in the best restaurant of the world. He also gave me his larch cream to heal my injured hands. When he explained to me his concept of nature, I was astonished about his profound knowledge about our lives and living through a “timeless” time. Today we do not live in a society where the discovery of a new ancient conifer or fern would be viewed with respect and gratitude. Together we realised how the world around has changed, with monster-buildings and enormous roads. We had to accept that we were studying a “lost time and world”. One day the authorities confiscated all of Féro discoveries and punished him with high penalties.

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280 million years ago: a difficult birth
About 280 million years ago, in the area of the western Dolomites, the earth began to crumble. Cracks formed in the hard crust and masses of lava emerged from the deep clefts, giving origin to one of the largest volcanic areas in Europe. Today the Bolzano Quartz Porphyry Plateau, formed in only a few million years, still reaches an imposing thickness of over 2000 metres in some points. A savannas-like biocoenosis with frequent wood fires, springtime inundations and a long-lasting dry season best characterise this landscape.





Tridentinosaurus antiquus-Dromopus didactylus
In 1931 Gualtiero Adami discovered near the village of Pinè a rock with a 260 mio year old lizard. The animal was killed during a volcanic eruption.






Neocalamites tregiovensis sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2012)
Permian - Artinskian
Water loving plants (New discovery).
The importance of this horsetail lies in the contestation of the common belief that the arid Permian age holds as well as a lot of xerophytic plants humidity-loving representatives.





Taeniopteris valentinii sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2012)
Permian - Artinskian
An enigmatic plant-group (New discovery).
Dedicated to modest forest-man Fèro Valentini from the Val di Non, who discovered many plants on Tregiovo-Le Fraine and had a passion for the marvels of nature.




Bjuvia tridentina sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2012)
Permian - Artinskian
The other line of cycads (New discovery).
Plant with oblong sometimes irregularly lacerated leaves. Delicate secondary veins rise almost perpendicularly – parallel and unforked – from the rachis.




Nilssonia perneri sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2012)
Permian - Artinskian
An exciting finding (New discovery).
This plant with its attached fronds on the trunk is interesting because for the first time we have unequivocal evidence that a low-growing bulb-like stem is to be found just in the first Permian cycads.



Baiera digitata
(FLORN, 1927)
Permian - Artinskian
The ancestors of Maiden Hair Trees.
The strange lacerated ginkgophyta Sphenobaiera is a widespread flora element in the European Permian.





Peltaspermum martinsii
(KURTZE 1839) (POORT & KERP, 1990)
Permian - Artinskian
Umbrella-like peltate heads as fructifications.
The worldwide ranging Peltaspermales, a group of seed-ferns belongs to the most suggestive Palaeozoic and Mesozoic flora elements.





Sphenopteris dichotoma
(ALTHAUS, 1846)
Permian - Artinskian
The Y-shaped fern.
 This fern largely known from other parts of the Permian world was named after its Y-shaped furcations “dichotoma”.




Ortiseia daberi sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2013)
Permian - Artinskian
The Alpine conifer (New discovery).
The conifer Ortiseia constitutes the most characteristic conifer of the Southern Alps and was widespread in the Permian.





Cassinisia ambrosii sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2012)
Permian - Artinskian
An ancestor of today‘s araucarians (New discovery).
With its protruding branchlets this conifer has many of features in common with Triassic Voltzia or todays Araucarians.




Walchia vialli sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2012)
Permian - Artinskian
The mother archetype of all conifers (New discovery).
The Walchiaceae are considered as the mother-group of all existing conifers.






Albertia scopolii sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2012)
Permian - Artinskian
A conifer with huge pollen cones (New discovery).
Conifer with strange massive pollen-cones.




Trentia treneri gen. nov. sp. n.
(WACHTLER, 2012)
Permian - Artinskian
Tongue-shaped conifer (New discovery).
This new and exciting conifer has striking resemblances with some of the contemporary Kauri pines or Agathis trees predominately occurring in the tropical rainforests of the southern hemisphere.

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Michael Wachtler - Highlights

New Discoveries
Fossil Plants, dinosaurs

Megachirella wachtleri
the ancestor of snakes and lizards

The First World War
in the Dolomites

 

Essay

 

Publications


Michael Wachtler
Discoverer, philosopher of nature, author, film director

Via P.-P.-Rainer 11,
I-39038 San Candido (BZ)

Tel. +39 0474 913462
Fax +39 0474 913092
michael@wachtler.com
www.michaelwachtler.com

VAT ID IT02608410219

Useful links:

Holiday Region Three Peaks in the Dolomites
Holidays in South Tyrol

  
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Michael Wachtler - Discoverer, philosopher of nature, author, film director
Via P.-P.-Rainer 11, I-39038 San Candido (BZ)
Tel. +39 0474 913462 - Fax +39 0474 913092 - michael@wachtler.com - www.michaelwachtler.com