Bolca Location: Northern Italy Age: Eocene
Fauna and Flora of Monte Bolca
The Monte Bolca Lagerstatte, although famed for the exceptional
fossil fish housed in museums throughout the world, preserves
a great diversity of fauna and flora.
Some of these are represented within the laminated carbonate
mudstones of the Pesciara, in which exceptional preservation
is common, whilst others are found in other horizons
throughout Monte Bolca.
These fossils are both marine and terrestrial in origin.
No definitive faunal list exhists and a number of groups
are poorly studied (see References
and Links for sources of information on individual studies).
Marine Fauna and Flora
The fossil fish of Monte Bolca have been studied since the
sixteenth century and include both teleost and elasmobranch groups.
250 species of fish (representing 140 genera, 90 families
and 19 orders) are known from the Monte Bolca localities. These
include angelfish, moray eels, mackerel, sea pikes, rays and
All of these species are extinct but 30% of genera, 80% of
families and 18 of the 19 orders are extant. In some cases, the
morphological differences between the fossil and equivalent modern
fauna are almost imperceptible.
Mene rhomba, a fish from The Pesciara,
Polychaete worms, jellyfish, crustaceans and a cephalopod
have all been found in the laminated Lagerstatte layers.
In the other horizons which make up Monte Bolca, corals,
molluscs and foraminifera are all found in relative abundance
but these tend to be fragmented and show signs of transportation.
Algae are the only marine plant fossils described from Monte
These algae include red (Pterigophycos), brown (Postelsiopsis
caput medusae) and green (Arystophycos) algae, and
Terrestrial Fauna and Flora
Vertebrates are represented by occasional reptiles and bird feathers.
The reptile fauna consist of tortoise shell plates, a snake
(Archaeophis bolcaensis), and a two-metre long crocodile
Numerous insects include crickets, beetles, termites, mosquitoes,
dragonflies and water bugs of the order Hemiptera.
Many of these insects are very similar to extant genera.
Freshwater and land plants are both well represented at Monte Bolca.
The freshwater plants are in need of a systematic reappraisal
(the last work having been conducted by Massalongo, 1859) but
include the genera Eichorniopis and Maffeia.
Scientific study of the land plants has been similarly neglected.
Herbaceous, shrubby plants are represented by broken branches,
individual leaves and occasionally fruit.
Trees represented include palm, coconut, Ficus and