Fossil Flora at Kühwiesenkopf (Olang/Valdaoa)

In one horizon especially rich in fossils at Kühwiesenkopf (Olang/Valdao, Pusteria Valley), well-preserved fauna and flora were discovered. The fossils were localized by the collector Michael Wachtler in 1999 and in part removed from the site by him.

Fossil Flora at Kühwiesenkopf (Olang/Valdaoa)The fossil-bearing strata of Kühwiesenkopf are characterized by the excellent state of preservation of a – for Central Europe – rare plant community, the Anisian (Middle Triassic Period). The leaves, branches, trunks, cones, and seeds of at least 36 species (29 genera) belonging to the lycopods, horsetails, ferns, pteridospermae (seed ferns), and cycads, and conifers have been identified. Some species of ferns (e.g. Scolopendrites grauvogelii and Gordonopteris lorigae - van Konijnenburg - van Cittert et al. 2006) and the great range in species of the seed ferns and cycads are particularly interesting. Some of the specimens are among the oldest representatives of their kind. Because of the numerous and high-quality finds, it was possible to reconstruct the corresponding primeval plants with much greater accuracy than was previously possible.

Additionally, South Tyrol's first and (at present) only reptile skeleton (Megachirella wachtleri) was also discovered at Kühwiesenkopf (Renesto & Posenato, 2003), together with various fish skeletons. Several fish skeletons (inter alia Saurichthys, Bobasatrania, Peltopleurus, Dipteronotus) which are likewise only seldom found in the Dolomites represent a further scientifically important aspect of this site. In this context, the relatively wide range of species is interesting. Of the eight specimens which have been investigated so far, three are extremely rare in the Middle Triassic (Tintori et al., 2001), some are oceanic fishes, while others inhabited freshwater or brackish areas.

Invertebrates are represented by ammonites (Sturia sansovinii (Mojsisovics), Acrochordiceras sp., Broglio Loriga et al., 2002) , brachiopods (especially Mentzelia mentzelii (Dunker)), bivalves (e.g. Mysidioptera cainalloi (Stoppani), Neomorphotis compta (Goldfuss), Pleuromya brevis (Assmann), Entolium discites (Schlotheim)) (Negrini, 2003), and gastropods.

Furthermore, the stratigraphic outcrops were examined for foraminifers (Fugagnoli & Posenato, 2005) and pollen (Kustatscher, 2004; Kustatscher & Roghi, in press).

Initial findings have already been published in scientific journals (bookmark for literature – see below) or presented at conferences (bookmark for conference contributions – see below), inter alia at the Conference on European Paleobotany and Palynology (Athens, 2002), the International Palynology Conference (Granada, 2004), and the International Conference of Geologists (Florence, 2004). With regards to the fossil plants, the site at Kühwiesenkopf is now considered to be one of the four most-important sites for Anisian plant fossils in Europe, next to the Vogeses (France), Central Germany, and Recoaro (foothills of the Venetian Alps).

Scientists from the following universities participated in this three-year project, which was initiated in 2002 and completed in 2004:

  • Ferrara (Carmela Broglio-Loriga, Renato Posenato, Anna Fugagnoli, Evelyn Kustatscher);
  • Milan (Maurizio Gaetani, Nadia Mantovani, Andrea Tintori, Silvio Renesto), and
  • Utrecht (Johanna H.A. van Konijnenburg-van Cittert).

Selected references:

NEGRINI P., 2003. I Bivalvi della successione Anisica (Triassico Medio) di Monte Prà della Vacca (Dolomiti di Braies, Bolzano). - Tesi di laurea inedita, Università di Ferrara, 122 pp.
RENESTO, S. & POSENATO, R., 2003. A new Lepidosauromorph reptile from the Middle Triassic of the Dolomites (Northern Italy). - Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia, 109(3): 463-474.
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.
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.
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.
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. & ROGHI G., 2006. Anisian palynomorphs from the Dont Formation of Kühwiesenkopf / Monte Prà della Vacca section (Braies Dolomites, Italy). – Micropalaeontology, 52 (3): 223-244.
KUSTATSCHER E., MANFRIN S., MIETTO P., POSENATO R. & ROGHI, G., 2006. New biostratigraphic data on Anisian (Middle Triassic) palynomorphs from the Dolomites (Italy). - Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 140 (2006): 79-90.
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.
POSENATO, R., 2008. Patterns of bivalve biodiversity from Early to Middle Triassic in the Southern Alps (Italy): Regional vs. global events. - Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 261 (2008): 145-159.
POSENATO, R., 2008. Anisian (Middle Triassic) bivalves from the Dolomites (Italy). - Neues Jahrbuch der Geologie und Paläontologie Abhandlungen, 261 (2008): 145-159.
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.
KUSTATSCHER E., WACHTLER, M. & VAN KONIJNENBURG-VAN CITTERT J.H.A. (in prep.). Lycophytes from the Middle Triassic (Anisian) locality Kühwiesenkopf (Monte Prà della Vacca) in the Dolomites (Northern Italy).