The pyramid-shaped, wooded mountain of Monte San Giorgio beside Lake Lugano is regarded as the best fossil record of marine life from the Triassic Period (245–230 million years ago). The sequence records life in a tropical lagoon environment, sheltered and partially separated from the open sea by an offshore reef. Diverse marine life flourished within this lagoon, including reptiles, fish, bivalves, ammonites, echinoderms and crustaceans. Because the lagoon was near land, the remains also include land-based fossils of reptiles, insects and plants, resulting in an extremely rich source of fossils.
Although it is primarily of geological significance, Monte San Giorgio also displays other natural values, as well as cultural links between the geology and the life of the local community. Noteworthy features include dry meadows on limestone subsoils that are home to plant populations not found elsewhere in Switzerland or in the entire southern Alpine zone of Italy. The site is rich in fungi and has 37 of the modern vertebrate species on the national Red List, 21 of which are protected under the Berne Convention.
Since 2010 it is a Unesco site.
Thanks to Le and David for the postcard.