Paleobotany in the Dolomites

Important finds of fossilized plants have revitalized the field of Paleobotany in the Dolomites. Some of the material – especially finds originating in the lower and upper Mid-Triassic Period (Anis, Ladin) – have been processed, and provide astounding insights in the flora of that era, which appears to be much more variegated than previously held.

Paleobotany in the DolomitesUp until 50 years ago, the Dolomites were regarded as being poor in plant fossils. In the meantime, especially local fossil collectors and university research groups have made a number of in part spectacular finds and attracted the attention of international paleobotanists.

A large part of the paleobotanical specimens stemming from the Permian Period to the Upper Triassic can now be found in the Museum of Nature South Tyrol, where further investigations are being carried out. The study of this material not only deepens our understanding of this era in the Dolomites, but also enables us for the first time to more-accurately reconstruct the various different primitive forms of plant life and landscapes of those times.Parallel to the macrophytes of the Triassic Period, the microflora (pollens and spores) found in significant Middle Triassic outcroppings are also being investigated. This serves not only to verify and rework biostratigraphic zones which have already been recognized in literature, but also to provide us with greater insights into the paleoclimatic conditions which prevailed during the Middle Triassic Period.

Selected references:

KUSTATSCHER E., 1999. La Flora Ladinica (Triassico Medio) delle Dolomiti. - Tesi di laurea AA 1998-1999, 95 pp., Ferrara.
KUSTATSCHER E., 2001. Flora continentale del Ladinico delle Dolomiti. - PaleoItalia, 4: 2-7, Modena. [ link: ].
BROGLIO-LORIGA C., FUGAGNOLI A., VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A., KUSTATSCHER E., POSENATO R. & WACHTLER M., 2002. The Anisian Macroflora from the Northern Dolomites (Kühwiesenkopf / Monte Prà della Vacca, Braies): a first report. - Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia, 108 (3): 381-389, Milano.
KUSTATSCHER E., 2004. Macroflore terrestri del Triassico Medio delle Dolomiti e loro inquadramento biocronostratigrafico e paleoclimatico mediante palinmorfi. - Tesi di dottorato in Scienze della Terra, XV ciclo, Consorzio Parma-Ferrara, 220 pp., Ferrara.
KUSTATSCHER E., 2004. Middle Triassic terrestrial macrofloras of the Dolomites and their biostratigraphic and palaeoclimatic framework by means of palynomorphs. - Acta Naturalia de «L'Ateneo Parmense», vol. 40, nn. 3/4, anno 2004: 95-99, Parma.
KUSTATSCHER E., WACHTLER M. & VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A., 2004. Some additional and revised taxa from the Ladinian Flora of the Dolomites, Northern Italy. Geo.Alp 1: 57-70, Innsbruck/Bozen.
POSENATO R., KUSTATSCHER E., TINTORI A. & VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A. & WACHTLER M. 2004. Il giacimento Anisico (Triassico Medio) di Monte Prà della Vacca / Kühwiesenkopf (Dolomiti di Braies). - GeoItalia, 13 (2004): 52-53.
KUSTATSCHER E. & VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A., 2005. The Ladinian Flora (Middle Triassic) of the Dolomites: palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and palaeoclimatic considerations. Geo.Alp 2: 31-51.
KUSTATSCHER E., MELLER B. & VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A., (2006). Old treasures newly discovered: Scytophyllum bergeri from the Ladinian of the Dolomites in the historical collections of the Geologische Bundesanstalt Wien. Geo.Alp 3 : 47-54.
VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A., KUSTATSCHER E. & WACHTLER M. (2006). Pteridophytes from the Anisian locality Kühwiesenkopf (Dolomites, Northern Italy). - Palaeontology, 49(5): 943-968.
KUSTATSCHER, E. & VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A., 2007. Taxonomical and palaeogeographic considerations on the seedfern genus Ptilozamites. – Neues Jahrbuch der Geologie und Paläontologie, 243(1): 71-100.
KUSTATSCHER, E., WACHTLER M. & VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A. (2007). Horsetails and seedferns from the Middle Triassic (Anisian) locality Kühwiesenkopf (Monte Prà della Vacca) in the Dolomites (Northern Italy). – Palaeontology 50/5: 1277–1298.
TODESCO, R., WACHTLER, M., KUSTATSCHER E., & AVANZINI, M., 2008. Preliminary report on a new vertebrate track and flora site from Piz da Peres (Anisian-Illyrian): Olanger Dolomites, Northern Italy. – Geo.Alp, 5: 121-137.
KUSTATSCHER E., HEMLSEY A.R. & VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A., (in press). Lugardonia paradoxa, a new fertile strobilus with unknown affinities from the Anisian flora of Kühwiesenkopf, the Dolomites, Italy. – Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology