On the tracks of dinosaurs
Discovering fossils between Val di Fiemme and Vallagarina
On the Alpine peaks that today offer an ideal habitat for chamois and ibex, once stretched a lush, tropical landscape that was dominated by dinosaurs. This is proved by the many fossil tracks that have been discovered in the Dolomites. They are so well preserved that they have allowed us to reconstruct in detail the evolutionary history of the large reptiles that dominated the Earth in the Triassic Period.
The dinosaurs’ supremacy began 232 million years ago, following a climate upheaval known as the Carnian Pluvial Episode, when a rapid heating of the planet transformed many arid habitats into humid ones. Many animal species became extinct, but the vegetation became luxuriant and the new environment favoured the rise of dinosaurs, which until then were not very widespread.
This was revealed by a research study coordinated by MUSE ‒ The Science Museum of Trento ‒ and published in 2018 by the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications. By studying the fossil tracks found in the Dolomites, which can be dated with extreme accuracy with those discovered in other parts of the world, researchers were able to literally reconstruct step-by-step how dinosaurs came to dominate the planet.
Even today, you can take a trip back in time and observe the tracks left by the large reptiles in the rocks of the gola del Bletterbach, a deep dolomite stone canyon near Val di Fiemme, which can be reached on foot, starting from Aldino or Radagno.
Another site of great interest where you can discover dinosaur tracks are the famous limestone formations of the Lavini di Marco, also mentioned in the Divine Comedy, which are located on the slopes of monte Zugna, near Rovereto. The tracks belong to herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs that lived here about 200 million years ago in the Jurassic Period. Along the 30-minute footpath, explanatory panels describe the geological history of this extraordinary prehistoric site. From April to October, on the second Saturday of the month, the Fondazione Museo Civico di Rovereto also organises guided tours for adults and children.