Swiss Journal of Geosciences

, Volume 105, Issue 1, pp 85–108 | Cite as

Integrated Ladinian bio-chronostratigraphy and geochrononology of Monte San Giorgio (Southern Alps, Switzerland)

  • Rudolf StockarEmail author
  • Peter O. Baumgartner
  • Daniel Condon


New biostratigraphic data significantly improve the age assignment of the Ladinian succession of Monte San Giorgio (UNESCO World Heritage List site, Southern Alps, Switzerland), whose world-famous fossil marine vertebrate faunas are now dated to the substage and zone levels. High-resolution single-zircon U–Pb dating was performed using ID-TIMS and chemical abrasion (CA) pre-treatment technique on volcanic ash layers intercalated in the biostratigraphically-defined intervals of the Meride Limestone. It yielded ages of 241.07 ± 0.13 Ma (Cava superiore beds, P. gredleri Zone), 240.63 ± 0.13 Ma (Cassina beds, P gredleri/P. archelaus transition Zone) and 239.51 ± 0.15 Ma (Lower Kalkschieferzone, P. archelaus Zone). Our results suggest that the time interval including the vertebrate-bearing Middle Triassic section spans around 4 Myr and is thus significantly shorter than so far assumed. The San Giorgio Dolomite and the Meride Limestone correlate with intervals of the Buchenstein Formation and the Wengen Formation in the reference section at Bagolino, where the Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) for the base of the Ladinian was defined. The new radio-isotopic ages of the Meride Limestone are up to 2 Myr older than those published for the biostratigraphically-equivalent intervals at Bagolino but they are consistent with the recent re-dating of the underlying Besano Formation, also performed using the CA technique. Average sedimentation rates at Monte San Giorgio are by more than an order of magnitude higher compared to those assumed for the Buchenstein Formation, which formed under sediment-starved pelagic conditions, and reflect prevailing high subsidence and high carbonate mud supply from the adjoining Salvatore/Esino platforms. Finally, the high-resolution U–Pb ages allow a correlation of the vertebrate faunas of the Cava superiore/Cava inferiore beds with the marine vertebrate record of the Prosanto Formation (Upper Austroalpine), so far precluded by the poor biostratigraphic control of the latter.


Ladinian Monte San Giorgio Meride Limestone Buchenstein Formation Biostratigraphy Geochronology U–Pb Ash bed Zircon 



Museo cantonale di storia naturale, Lugano, Switzerland



We are grateful to Hans Rieber (Zürich) for the identification of the ammonoids. The first author is indebted to Evelyn Kustatscher (Bozen) and David Bodman (Sheffield) for the stimulating discussions about palynological aspects, to Paulian Dumitrica (IGP, UNI Lausanne) for the revision of the determination of the radiolarian specimens illustrated herein and especially to Daniel Bernoulli (UNI Basel) for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Thierry Adatte (IGP, UNI Lausanne) kindly performed the mineralogical analyses of the bentonite samples. SEM work considerably benefited from technical assistance of Pierre Vonlanthen (IGP, UNI Lausanne). We particularly acknowledge Neria Römer who assisted during all the first author’s field work. Sergio Pezzoli (Milano), Sergio Rampinelli (Bergamo), Lara Lucini (MCSN) and Medea Proce (UNI Basel) kindly provided assistance in the field and in the fossil preparation. U–Pb radio-isotopic dating at NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory (NIGL), British Geological Survey, Nottingham, UK, and palynological preparations at MB Stratigraphy, Sheffield, UK, were granted by the Dipartimento del territorio del Cantone Ticino (Museo Cantonale di Storia Naturale) and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. This paper greatly benefited from constructive comments by Heinz Furrer (PIMUZ) and Urs Schaltegger (UNI Genève) and especially from a very careful review by Peter Brack (ETH Zürich) which greatly contributed to improve the manuscript. Peter Hochuli kindly checked the palynological part of the paper.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Rudolf Stockar
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Peter O. Baumgartner
    • 1
  • Daniel Condon
    • 3
  1. 1.Institut de Géologie et PaléontologieUniversité de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Museo Cantonale di Storia NaturaleLuganoSwitzerland
  3. 3.NERC Isotope Geosciences LaboratoryBritish Geological SurveyNottinghamEngland, UK

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