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Dolomites > The formation of the Dolomites > Genesis of a landscape

Dolomites - The genesis of a landscape

A time-lapse by Michael Wachtler

Coral reef235 million years ago: a fall to a great depth
The Dolomite region sank even deeper. In parts, 1000 metres and more. In a race against time, the corals had to build their barriers higher and higher. A large part of the most imposing mountain ranges in the Dolomites - such as the Catinaccio, the Sciliar, the Latemar, the Pale di San Martino or the Marmolada – are no more than enormous fossilized barriers.

228 million years ago: powerful volcanic eruptions
The next catastrophe was on the doorstep: in the area of the Siusi Alps, from Predazzo and Buffaure an enormous quantity of volcanic material was thrust to the surface. In the same way, masses of lava flowed over the sea bed, seeping out of numerous points under the sea. Lava flows and deposits of tuff filled the depressions between the barriers, covering the coral reefs and killing all forms of life. The Daonella shell, with its elegant ribbing, found its ideal habitat in the waters near the coast of the little volcanic islands. A varied vegetation flourished on little volcanic islands.
Numerous organisms accumulated on the tall barrier reefs, among them algae, sponges and especially coral. In various forms they crowded the warm and well-ventilated surface waters. These layers at San Cassiano are fascinating with their infinite richness and the extraordinary state of preservation of the most varied fossils. More than 1400 different species of marine animals have been discovered. They have partly maintained their original color.

220 million years ago: tide levels without frontiers
Enormous surfaces with a reduced water covering began to develop, forcing the sea to move farther back and resulting in the appearance of large surfaces of land. Very fine layers of mud were thus formed. The Dolomia Principale formation produced some of the most imposing mountains in the Dolomites, including the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, the Cristallo and the Tofana. Big shells up to half a metre in size found their ideal environment buried in the mud: Megalodonts and Dicerocardiums. These shells have been preserved to the present day in the form of steinkerns. They could be half a metre and more in size.


Foto: Michael Wachtler

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