A sea of memories

Mountains that rise like pyramids, a lake that stretches its deep blue arms and picturesque villages: the stunning beauty of Monte San Giorgio’s countryside is reason enough to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage property. Its uniqueness, however, stems from its hidden treasure – fossils dating back 240 million years. Back then Monte San Giorgio’s rocks formed a marine lagoon in a sub- tropical region. Today, the fossil museum in Meride offers exciting insights into this mysterious world. Natural Heritage since 2003 (2010 extension).

Who works behind the scenes of the World Heritage of Monte San Giorgio? (Italian)


The finds at Monte San Giorgio provide clues about the origin of these organism. Tracing their development back, we reach their primal forms, which can be compared with fossils from other areas. The latest research puts the origins of the Triassic marine fauna in the Guizhou Province of southern China, where rich layers of sediments holding vertebrates were found. By comparing these life forms with Triassic marine fossils found in other places, such as Tibet, Iran or Turkey, we can hypotesise that ocean currents carried these organisms westwards from what is now China to the sea area that would much later on become Monte San Giorgio. Unlike deposits found in Guizhou, however, which to date have revealed only a relatively limited diversity of fish and reptiles, the strata at Monte San Giorgio show a real explosion of life forms.

Did you know?

• The smallest fossil prepared by palaeontologists at Monte San Giorgio is a plant spore measuring just 0.03 mm in diameter.
• Imagine the life of animals that populated the subtropical sea basin around Monte San Giorgio 240 million years ago.

  • Map

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    Mendrisiotto e basso Ceresio