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Important fossil find in Ticino

The fossil of a tiny previously unknown insect has been discovered near the Monte San Giorgio area of the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

This content was published on February 7, 2012 - 21:48
swissinfo.ch and agencies

The cantonal environment office described it as “one of the most important finds at the site in the last 150 years”.

The wingless insect, which has been given the Latin name Dasyleptus triassicus, measures about 15 millimetres in length.

Palaeontologist Rudolf Stockar of the Ticino natural history museum told the Swiss News Agency that the interest lies not only in the fact that it is new to science, but also that it is the first representative of the Dasyleptus species to have been found dating from the Mesozoic era, which lasted from about 250 million to 65 million years ago.

The species was previously thought to have died out more than 250 million years ago.

Scientists found three fossil examples of the insect in August 2010 in the Val Mara near Meride.The results of their work have been published in the latest edition of the specialist journal "Palaeodiversity".

Monte San Giorgio was adopted as a Unesco world heritage site in 2003, because it is regarded as “the best fossil record of marine life from the Triassic Period (245–230 million years ago)”, the Unesco website says.

“Because the lagoon was near land, the remains also include land-based fossils of reptiles, insects and plants, resulting in an extremely rich source of fossils.”

So far the fossils of more than 200 types of animal have been found there.

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